Say the wrong thing and you could get canceled. This reality has led many who face accusations of copyright infringement to pay off the accuser and try to keep the allegations quiet, even when they lack merit. Although this route may seem easier, it simply fuels the culture and can lead to more problems.
A prime example is present within the music industry. Some point to the Robin Thicke hit Blurred Lines in 2013 as a turning point. In that case, Marvin Gaye’s family argued it had the same feel as one of his hits.
The same “feel” was the argument. The notes used in the song were not the same. The lyrics were different. But the feel, the mood, the use of party chatter and cowbell in the background was enough for the court to agree with Mr. Gaye’s family. They won the case and got $5 million plus half of all future royalties.
Queue an onslaught of similar attempts.
Katie Perry, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, and Ed Sheeran are just a few musicians who have faced similar accusations. What’s an artist to do when faced with these claims and a potentially costly courtroom battle? It helps to know that the party making the accusation has to prove three things to win. This is true whether the accusation is based on stealing a song, software, or other form of copyright infringement. These three things are:
- Ownership. The party making the accusation of copyright infringement must own the material that they claim you infringed upon.
- Access. The party making the claim must also show that you had access to their original work.
- Similarity. Finally, that the two items are substantially similar.
Without proving these elements, the accuser cannot build their case. If you are the subject of this type of case, you can counter an attempt to establish these elements. You can also use other defense strategies to defeat the claim, like fair use or authorization.
As noted after winning his case, Sheehan points out that these types of claims are far too common. People will move forward with allegation of copyright infringement with the hopes that the other side will agree to a settlement to simply make the matter go away. The important takeaway here is that you do not have to take this route. If you are accused of copyright violations, you have options. You can fight back.