How to copy a song with impunity : a legal perspective on copyright infringement cases for musical works

Rogowski, Adrian (2015-03)

Thesis (LLM)--Stellenbosch Univeristy, 2015


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Music has, and continues to play, an important role in society. It is therefore natural that more music composers enter the scene to capitalize upon this role that music has in society. It is however becoming more common place for music composers to start copying each other, either directly or indirectly. Fortunately, copyright laws have been developed to further protect the rights enjoyed by copyright holders, such as music composers, and these laws essentially protect the composers from the unlawful reproduction of their original music. Copying is, to some degree, inevitable, therefore, the question asked by this paper is to what extent is someone entitled to ‘copy’ from another person without it amounting to copyright infringement. In determining if there is copyright infringement, two tests must be applied and satisfied, namely, the causal connection test, and the substantial similarity test. Causal connection is usually met by establishing whether the alleged infringer had access to the original work. The substantial similarity test is the focus of this paper. The courts rely on this test to determine if that part which was reproduced from the original work is of substance i.e. if it is a part of the work which attributes uniqueness and quality to the original song. Of course, this test is notoriously difficult to understand and apply, hence the need for this paper to address the question on when there is substantial similarity in two works. This paper is of benefit to academics, authors (musicians) and lawyers, as not only is the substantial similarity test discussed from a theoretical point of view, but the question of when something is substantially similar is answered from a pragmatic point of view. It is hoped that this paper is used as a guideline in understanding and applying the substantial similarity test in music copyright infringement cases.

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