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  • InsideTrack
  • November 03, 2021

    Copyright Questions? Here's Some 'Help!'

    Have you written a song, or do you know a neighborhood band, or are you interested in getting to know copyright law? Here's how to gain a clear, comprehensive understanding of music copyright law (while you listen to some great Fab Four songs!).
    playing guitar

    Nov. 3, 2021 – Two copyrights exist in recorded music, especially in songs like the 1965 song “Help!” by The Beatles.

    But do you really know what they are? “Most people will say the music and the lyrics,” said Jim Jesse, an attorney who practiced in the areas of intellectual property, licensing, and music law. “And they would be incorrect.”

    Actually, the music and lyrics comprise one of the copyrights. The other? “How the music and lyrics sound to the ear,” Jesse said.

    How the music sounds, for instance, makes the elevator music version of The Beatles’ song “Help!” and the 1984 cover by Tina Turner very different entities from the original 1965 recorded version – which is itself a different entity from a live performance and other recorded versions of the same song by The Beatles.

    “Understanding that distinction is key to understanding everything in music copyright,” Jesse said. “If you understand that, all of music copyright flows from that.”

    A Great Way to Learn the Basics

    Jesse is the former general counsel for Cool Music Network (THECOOLTV), a 24-hour-a-day music video television network. As founder of Rock N’ Roll Law, he teaches music law to thousands of attorneys across the U.S.

    He is the presenter of the CLE program The Essentials of Music Copyright Law with The Beatles – Featuring Jim Jesse presented by State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®, to be webcast live on Nov. 11, 2021.

    Offering 4.0 CLE and 1 EPR credits, the course gives you an overview of music copyright law concepts. Along the way, you’ll listen to The Beatles songs to elaborate on the law and use one of the most famous musical groups in history as a case study.

    “We’ll listen to some great songs – it’s a fun way to gain a framework to understand this area of law. It’s The Beatles – everybody loves The Beatles!” Jesse said.

    Musicians aren’t looking for just anybody to help them protect their creative works. They’re looking for somebody who has a clear, comprehensive understanding of music copyright law.

    Focusing on the most famous music copyright cases (such as George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”), the course topics include:

    • what is a copyright and how to establish one;

    • all the copyrights in a song;

    • all the rights and revenue sources you get with a copyright;

    • ethical issues in representing a band; and

    • all of the above with The Beatles as a case study.

    “We will also delve into issues regarding joint authorship, works-made-for-hire, and termination rights – when you sign your rights away,” Jesse said.

    You’ll also listen to the songs in question. “You will learn the basic rules regarding proving a copyright infringement case, along with defenses such as fair use, and damages in a copyright action.”

    Wisconsin Lawyers and the Arts, Copyright, and the Law

    Want more information on copyright law and music? Here are some resources:



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