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For Immediate Release: January 21, 2005
Contact: Natalia Kennedy (212) 998-6736
The brief argues that the de minimis rule is a longstanding and essential component of all copyright law, including sound recordings. The rule allows artists to sample small amounts from earlier work to produce new creations. In the visual arts, literature, and music, borrowing is an intrinsic part of the creative process. The brief cites examples from the collage artist Robert Rauschenberg to composers like Charles Ives and John Cage, and literary landmarks like T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, made up largely of fragments from other works.
Congress also has recognized the importance of protecting the de minimis rule for sound recording copyrights. In 1976, Congress overhauled the Copyright Act and used inclusive language to “make clear that…infringement takes place whenever all or any substantial portion of the actual sounds that go to make up a copyrighted sound are reproduced.” Clearly, Congress intended for the de minimis rule to apply to all sound recordings.
“The Court of Appeals decision to target trivial borrowing
from sound recordings isn’t supported by copyright law or sound policy,”
says Marjorie Heins, coordinator of the Free Expression Policy Project
The brief responds to a lawsuit brought by Bridgeport Music and other owners of the song “Get off Your Ass and Jam.” A chord of that song was sampled in the track “100 Miles and Runnin.” A federal district court judge found the borrowing of this chord to be de minimis and not in violation of copyright law. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals reversed the decision. However, after receiving a petition for rehearing, the judges agreed to reconsider. The Brennan Center/EFF brief urges them to reverse their original ruling and reinstate the de minimis rule.
For copies of the brief, go to http://www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/bridgeport.pdf
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a non-profit public interest organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties and free expression in the digital world. Please visit, www.eff.org
In June 2005, the same three judges of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
who originally ruled against a "de minimis" rule for music sampling
decided not to change their earlier decision. See "Appeals
Court Reaffirms Its Tone-Deaf Approach to Music Sampling."
Update: In June 2005, the same three judges of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals who originally ruled against a "de minimis" rule for music sampling decided not to change their earlier decision. See "Appeals Court Reaffirms Its Tone-Deaf Approach to Music Sampling."