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Copyright Corner


September 15, 2016

Time: 11:30 am - 1:45 pm

BEGGED, BORROWED, OR STOLEN: How Musicology Shapes Copyright Infringement Claims

 Co-Presented by The Copyright Society of the USA - L.A. Chapter.  


Whether via a sample, interpolation or an “homage,” the most interesting infringement cases often stem from how similar a musicologist determines one composition and/or sound recording is to another.  Our panel will cover a basic overview of musicological analysis and how both in general and specific ways such analysis can determine the path and outcome of possible infringement claims.  We will also address how the “substantial similarity” issue can influence a settlement or how a licensing deal is structured.  

Additionally, the panel will include a veteran writer/artist/producer to discuss how the inclusion of samples and/or interpolations from pre-existing songs affect the songwriting process, and how a writer is involved if a copyright infringement issue arises after a song is released.  To round out the panel, we will have a leading sample clearance expert to discuss where licensing comes in, what kind of uses should be licensed, and how this can prevent copyright infringement from taking place. 


Judith Finell
Musicologist/Owner, Judith Finell MusicServices, Inc.

Madeleine Smith
Manager Music Sampling, Universal Music Publishing Group


Jesse E. Morris, Esq.
Morris Music Law

AIMP Panel

Place: View Map
Lawry's The Prime Rib
100 North La Cienega Blvd. (near Wilshire)
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

From left, Michael Eames/PEN Music Group & AIMP president, Judith Finell, Jesse Morris, Esq. and Madeleine Smith.  

Photos by Diego Lopez & Liz Redwing, courtesy of Lawry's The Prime Rib.

Additional Speaker Information

Judith Finell is a musicologist and the president of Judith Finell MusicServices Inc., a music consulting firm in New York founded in 1985. She has testified as an expert witness and consulted in various litigations involving copyright infringement over the past 20 years, including most recently as the lead musicologist for the Marvin Gaye family in its dispute over the song “Blurred Lines” with Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke. She has also testified in disputes for Michael Jackson, Sony/CBS, Warner-Chappell, the estates of Igor Stravinsky and Bob Marley and before the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington on behalf of the National Music Publishers Assn. in a dispute with the RIAA Ms. Finell’s firm regularly advises entertainment company clients on licensing and risk avoidance in copyright matters, including HBO, Sony Pictures, Disney, Grey Advertising, Lionsgate, LucasFilms, CBS, and others. Ms. Finell holds an M.A. degree in musicology from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. from UCLA in piano performance. She has written numerous articles and a book in the area of contemporary music and copyright infringement and has appeared in trials on Court TV and before the American Intellectual Property Law Association. She is on the board of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A., and has appeared as a guest lecturer at the law schools of UCLA, Columbia, Vanderbilt, George Washington, NYU, Harvard and Fordham as well as the Beverly Hills Bar Assn., LA Copyright Society, and the Association of Independent Music Publishers.

Madeleine Smith started her career in music sampling clearance in the mid-80’s working for Ruthless Records and seminal rap artists Eazy-E, N.W.A., Above The Law, The D.O.C., and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.  Her company Songwriter Services was the first West Coast based company specializing in sample clearance and publishing administration for rap writers & producers.  They soon were also working for Death Row Records (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac) and Ice Cube’s Street Knowledge Productions (Ice Cube, YoYo, Da Lench Mob, Kam).  Over time they handled sample clearances for hundreds of artists on all of the major labels and many indies.  Madeleine continued working on sample clearances and publishing administration on an independent basis until she joined the staff of UMPG in May 2016 as Manager, Music Sampling.  She is a former Board Member of AIMP, CCC, and LAWIM.

Jesse E. Morris Esq. is the owner of the boutique music law firm, Morris Music Law, where he primarily represents songwriters, artists, producers, managers, labels, publishers, and music-related tech companies. Jesse is also co-founder of TuneRegistry, an easy-to-use music catalog manager with integrated music industry administration tools. A Santa Monica native, Jesse graduated from Santa Monica High School and continued his education with a BA in philosophy at UC Berkeley and a juris doctorate (cum laude), from UC Hastings. Jesse is also a musician and composer of music himself, with skills on the piano, drums, trumpet, and tuba. He has been in many bands, so he understands the needs of the musician first hand. Jesse is a co-chair of the L.A. Chapter of the Copyright Society of the USA and regularly speaks at events for California Lawyers for the Arts.

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