Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Can't Buy Me Love (but maybe coauthorship?)

... but a copyright infringement lawsuit can do plenty of other things. The NYT reports on a lawsuit by the creators of one Beatles tribute performance against another Beatles tribute performance:
The suit contends that the new musical — which steers clear of those contentious “Let It Be” recording sessions, focusing instead on peppier Beatles moments like the “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance — owes a significant debt to “Rain,” from the musical arrangements to the between-song patter to the mop-toppy wigs. All but 3 of the 31 songs in “Rain” are also in “Let It Be,” according to the lawsuit, and “the artwork used as background during the performance of many of those songs are similar or identical.”
Derivative works/stagecraft claims run amuck? The complaint doesn't deal with the issue of musical arrangements not being copyrightable as a derivative work without the copyright owners' consent.  Mention of the arrangements may be a matter of the reporter misunderstanding the complaint; the complaint itself mainly talks about actual samples (though it also says that the defendants' show uses the "same acoustic versions" of the songs, which seems to refer to arrangement).  Though really, the claims seem more contractual than copyright-based: the allegations are designed to show an agreement to be co-authors, highlighting the ways in which joint authorship doctrine is about power more than it is about creativity.

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