AES Section Meeting Reports

Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences - January 23, 2020

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Dr. E. Michael Harrington started the night by introducing us to the basic concepts of copyright law in the music industry, with some of those concepts surprising the audience.  These surprising concepts he mentioned included the ability to copyright chord progressions and bass lines, which he gave many examples of previous cases that he had worked on. Most of these cases he mentioned had failed due to previous examples being found with the same content, examples like the recent Radiohead Vs Lana Del Rey.  He explained that in this case the unique chord progression of 1 3 4 4m could be copyrighted, but there were many previous examples of this same progression dating back into the early 1900s. Dr. E. Michael Harrington also spent some time going over other examples pertaining to common phrases like "Don't go breakin' my heart" and "this is how we do it".  He gave an extensive amount of examples of different ways these phrases could be used without breaking copyright law, but also showed us that in some cases the delivery and tempo can be too similar, resulting in a lawsuit. Dr. E. Michael Harrington's ending statements focused on the case of Marvin Gaye Vs. Robin Thicke. He explained that the songs in question had no compositional similarities including  words, chords, melodies or progressions. He explained that this case was extremely important because it was a ruling the Gayes won and we creators are more likely than ever to be sued for frivolous reasons.  One judge out of the three who heard our appeal, agreed strongly with us and chided the Gaye's expert witness and the awful decision,  But we still lost 2-1. At the end of the night Dr. E. Michael Harrington explained a new sampling law that he is in support of passing that would allow sampling of any song older than 10 years, as long as the sample is under 10 seconds and %25 goes to the artist.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society