Tag Archives: copyright

A Dose of Basic Copyright Law

bby driver

Deborah and Baby

It shouldn’t have to be said, but if you use someone else’s work: you need to get permission. The Hollywood Reporter’s legal roundup today included two copyright cases that probably shouldn’t have had to be litigated. The first was in regard to Baby Drive, the excellent 2017 action film from Edgar Wright that makes extensive use of music to drive the story. It’s great, and it’s up for a few Oscars. The main love interest is named Debora, played by Lily James, and so the film naturally included a 1968 song called “Debora” by T.Rex. Except they didn’t clear it first. The oversight was discovered when they went to get permission to use it on the Soundtrack, and the son of the songwriter sued Sony (T.Rex frontman Marc Bolan had passed away). The matter was resolved at mediation, suggesting that his heir received just compensation for using the song.

 

And further down in that same article, THR reports that Beyoncé settled with the estate of Anthony Barré, whose spoken word recorded under the name “Messy Mya” was used in her hit song “Formation“. Both of these instances are pretty straightforward copyright infringements, and I suspect the fault is not on Beyoncé or Wright, rather it was likely the studios who failed to get clearance and to compensate the original artists before going forward. Both suits have been settled, and you can resume listening to “Formation” and watching Baby Driver” guilt-free.

Seriously, go watch Baby Driver if you haven’t, it’s excellent.

I guess I’ll throw in a little criminal law- if Baby had been charged in Florida state court (the movie is set in Atlanta, GA), he would’ve been facing mandatory life in prison without parole for Felony Murder (even though he didn’t do the shootings). Regardless of the people who spoke up for him, the movie would not have ended on a positive note if it had been set in Miami…

Law Professor Sues Record Label for Copyright Letter

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig did a lecture about adaptive use of a song, and posted the lecture to YouTube. This is clearly a fair use under copyright law. However, the record label sent him a standard cease and desist letter for the use of the song in his lecture. Do not threaten copyright lawyers for their fair use! Not only did Lessig fight to keep up the video, he has turned around to sue the record label for improperly challenging his fair use! It’s an important action, to deter the chilling effect caused by overzealous prosecution of copyright laws.

This isn’t criminal related, but it was too juicy not to share!