Copyright jurisprudence in 2020 was, in many ways, a study in the scope of copyright protection. While certain courts brought century-year-old precedent to the forefront to interpret the scope of copyrights, other courts ruled overruled 40 years of precedent to even the playing field between popular works and works that are less known.
In the wake of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s pivotal copyright decision in the Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” lawsuit, several district courts, within and outside California, have relied on the en banc decision to resolve similar issues related to copyright infringement. The defining scope of the Zeppelin decision will have long-lasting effects within the music industry and beyond.
- Unprotected Subject Matter
- Copyright Infringement – Damages
- Music – The Scope of Protection
- Music – Royalty Rates for Digital Transmissions
- SCOTUS Update – Google v. Oracle
There is plenty to look forward to in 2021. We are certain to see big ripples from the Supreme Court decision in Google v. Oracle; whether it will “upend the world” is another story. Certainly the Court may rule on the extent to which software should be afforded copyright protection and the degree to which fair use applies to software copyrights. One thing is for sure—both sides agree that the future of software innovation is at stake. We are also certain to see a rising tide of cases relying on Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, as we have already seen with the Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran cases. With the elimination of the inverse ratio rule, less popular songs will have a fairer day in court. Finally, once the vaccines allow for the courtroom doors to open again, we expect to see a flood of copyright infringement jury trials that were put on hold in 2020. Indeed, 2021 is looking like a very busy year.