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Francesco Rossi

BLAW 302
Legal Research Paper: Oh Yeah Dispute
[Research based on the Law of Intellectual Property in the U.S.]
On a late afternoon during fall break, I was listening to some old Latin music songs, which I
havent heard in a long time. At that moment, I realized that some of those songs seemed
identical, they had the same beats. I started wondering if maybe one artist stole some betas from
someone else. Thinking about, I came with the following hypothetical situation:
Let's suppose Person A is a young artist dreaming to one day be a famous
musician. He practices every day, and has currently been writing some new cool
songs. His friend Person B, is a well-recognized pop artist, and one day visits
Person A on his house. During that visit he hears some of Person A's songs and
get some inspiration from them to write his new song "Oh yeah" which soon
becomes a success. Person A realizes his friend Person B has used most of the
beats of a song of his, but since he isn't as known as Person B, he is afraid people
might not believe him, despite him having them protected by the law. a) Would
it be appropriate for Person A to sue Person B? b) Would it be legal to do so? c)
Would Person A be successful?
Most people would probably come with the immediate answer that Person B is a bastard, he
didnt act as a friend, stole Person As song, and therefore should be punished! Some may even
argue that he should go to jail! However, is this a correct statement? In order to be able to give a
meaningful answer to this question, we need first to understand the situation. This implies
answering questions such as: what action/crime did Person B commit? What elements were
involved in that scenario? Is a song beat a real object? Or does it fall in a special category? Were
any circumstances not mentioned that if so may have alter the outcome of the scenario? And
most importantly, we need to understand the laws governing this situation to properly give at
least attempt to give the best possible and fair answer.
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BLAW 302
Person A is upset, so it could be correctly assumed that Person B has used the beats of Person
As songs without his permission or attribution, or didnt tell him, and thats why he is trying to
sue him. Specifically, the action Person B committed is called sampling. According to
Copynot.org, sampling is the use of portions of prior recordings which are incorporated into a
new composition1. Sampling itself is not a crime, as it is commonly used in many areas in the
music industry. However, sampling without authorization may constitute copyright infringement.
Therefore, the best way to analyze this situation is by looking at the Law of Intellectual Property
in the United States.
Intellectual Property refers to the Intangible rights protecting the products of human
intelligence and creation to encourage the development of art, science, and information by
granting certain property rights to all artists, which include inventors in the arts and the
sciences2. Music content, such as melodies, rhythms and beats will fall into this category, and so
are considered intellectual property. U.S. Law protects intellectual property. In fact, the Article I,
Section 8, Clause 8, of the U.S. Constitution indicates that the Congress will work to promote the
progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the
exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. 3 Having identified the song as
intellectual property, the best way for Person A to protect with work is by obtaining a copyright.
A copyright is a legal device that gives the creator of a literary, artistic, musical, or other
creative work the sole right to publish and sell that work.4 By doing so, Person A will be able to
prohibit anyone else from using his song, or obtain compensation for any unfair use of his work.

Definition of Sampling. See first line of following url: http://www.copynot.org/Pages/Music%20sampling.htm


Definition of Intellectual Property. Par. 1 &2 : http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/intellectual+property
3
Look at Section 8, Clause 8 of Article 1 of the U.S. constitution at :http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei
4
Definition of Copyright. Par. 2: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/copyright
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Francesco Rossi
BLAW 302
In the hypothetical scenario Person A had the songs protected by the law, which may lead an
individual to reasonably believe that he was granted copyright protection for his songs.
Having identified the songs beats as Person As property, the question that needs to be
clarified is if Person B committed or not copyright infringement. Sample clearance, which is the
process of getting permission from the owners of the sampled music, is not always necessary.
Usually, it is required only if you plan to make copies of your music and distribute the copies to
the public, but not if the music is intended for personal use, or even for performance of live
shows5. The hypothetical situation indicated that his song became a success, but never stated
whether if it was a record, or a new song he performed in a concert, which was filmed by a fan
and uploaded into the Internet becoming a trend. The scenario neither specified if the artist
generated revenues due the new hit, or not. Furthermore, it could be argued that the use of those
beats as inspirations could be considered of Fair use for Person B, under the Fair use doctrine.
The U.S. Code Article 17 Chapter 1 Section 107 indicates some limitations on exclusive rights,
where the fair use of a copyrighted work can be justified by looking at the amount and
substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole6. The famous
artist created some original material, and the ratio of similar to new content is considerably small;
thus he could argue his content is fair. There are many facts, which were not specified in the
situation, and thus its hard to determine whether copyright infringement occurred or not.

See the When Sample Clearance Is Required Section: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/permissionsampled-music-sample-clearance-30165.html


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See Clause 3 of the Article 17 Section 107 of the U.S. Code at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/107

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BLAW 302
[Conclusion]
Person A could sue Person B based on copyright infringement. This would be legal, as
the U.S. Legal System has regulations regarding law of intellectual property, specified in the U.S.
Constitution and the U.S. Copyright Law. However, the hypothetical scenario had several terms
which were not specified. It is important to determine whether copyrights were established or not,
and how did Person Bs new song Oh yeah became a success. If Person A is able to prove that
copyright worked existed and Person B consciously took advantage of such situation constituting
copyright infringement, then he would most likely win the dispute. If not, Person A will most
likely lose the case as good lawyer of famous artist Person B will be able to argue that it was his
original work and so no infringements were committed. In fact due to lack of evidence, I will
argue that most likely Person B would win the argument in case of a law suit.
Note: This study was conducted and analyzed within the perspective of the Law of Intellectual
Property. Any different outcome or scenarios which may have fallen into the areas of Tort Law
or Contract Law were not considered in this occasion.

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This source, as some other, were not directly cited in the paper but used for reference, and to
understand the topic.

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BLAW 302
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