"This website
April 18, 2002 9:09 AM   Subscribe

"This website comprises hundreds of documents (texts, scores, audio and video files) associated with music copyright infringement cases in the United States from 1845 forward. All of these documents have been collected, edited, digitized, organized, analyzed, and commented upon by staff at Columbia Law Library and the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning." Under the discussion section, there a write-up entitled "Notation Software and Determination of Melodic Similarity". For all those music majors out there who are thinking about law school, this is definitely an alternative career waiting for you where you don't have to throw away all the music.
posted by margaretlam (4 comments total)
This is beautiful. Thank you Margaret. I am a law student concentrating on soft-IP and I also have a strong interest in musicology. This is the first time I have seen this site and it looks to be a great resource. If anyone is thinking about law school and/or copyrights/trademarks/licensing etc. feel free to email me. I am just finishing my first year.
posted by anathema at 9:28 AM on April 18, 2002

wow, really interesting link.

The Tempo Music v. Famous Music I found particularly intriguing. Basically, the court was trying to decide whether Billy Strayhorn was entitled to royalties for the Duke Ellington tune "Satin Doll," which Ellington wrote the melody for and Strayhorn harmonized. The question, which the court appears to have answered in the affirmative, is whether harmonizing a melody you didn't write can entitle you to copyright protection.

In the case of Satin Doll, I'm sure Ellington had a basic idea of underlying harmonic structure that would support the melody. Strayhorn was probably working more with the details of substitutions and color, which a modern jazz combo would more or less ignore when performing the song. In fact, it's relatively common for jazz groups to completely reharmonize a jazz standard, to the point where it is almost unrecognizable. It's also extremely common for jazz composers to borrow chord structures from older jazz standards and write new melodies for them. The chords for "I've Got Rhythm" have been borrowed so frequently that there is a standardized term for them in jazz (rhythm changes).

So, it just raises all sorts of interesting issues about what makes something "original", particularly in a tradition that relies so heavily on the sharing/borrowing of musical ideas. I have no idea how I would decide this case if I were a judge, but boy would it be interesting.
posted by boltman at 11:44 AM on April 18, 2002

Boltman, I was looking through some Charles Mingus links and came across his liner notes for "Let My Children Hear Music." He has some interesting things to say about composition of jazz songs, which fit along with the difficulties that you are pointing towards.
posted by bragadocchio at 11:23 PM on April 18, 2002

thanks, bragadocchio, that was a facinating read. mingus is definitely one of the true geniuses of jazz.
posted by boltman at 11:34 AM on April 19, 2002

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