paced more driving rhythm than Delta Blues. Chicago Blues artists such as Muddy Waters, Son House, Howlin Wolf, T-bone Walker and countless others were clearly influenced by their Delta Blues predecessor, however their music was much more than mere copying of the delta blues style. They took the essence of their acoustic predecessors, and crafted their own new style. In turn, the Chicago blues artists inspired a new generation of artists ranging from the 1960’s through today and include the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and more recently, Keb Mo and the Los Lonely Boys.
I think someone would be hard pressed to say that just because Chicago Blues was influenced by Delta Blues, that Chicago Blues artists are not entitled to protect their works. In order to be eligible for copyright protection, there just needs to be a modicum of creativity. Alfred Bell & Co. v.Catalda Fine Arts, Inc., 191 F.2d 99 (2d Cir. 1951). As human beings, it is unreasonable to expect people to live in a vacuum. We are always going to be influenced be others. Copyright law takes this into account. The standard for protection is originality, not novelty as in patents. Therefore, copyright law does not extend copyright just to one novel about police detectives, it extends them to all detective novels as long as they are original - i.e. it is not substantially similar to another work and there was no intent to copy. Therefore, if my novel shadows some other book’s plot line and the characters seem very similar and it is shown that I 1) intentionally copied the work or that 2)1 had access to the work (e.g. own a copy of the work), then there is a good possibility that I may be found to be infringing. In terms of music, this means that two songs may have very common components, but as long as they are not substantially similar and there was no intent to copy, there is no infringement. As the Harrisongs case shows, this may be difficult at times and the courts may get it wrong. However, just because it may be a difficult task to assess it doesn’t mean that we should throw our arms up and declare that music isn’t copyrightable. Due to the vast body of music already out there, and the fact that music is governed by certain mathematical relationships that limit the potential combinations that will result in sounds that are "appealing" to the human ear, it might make sense to narrow the scope of protection so we don’t get into a situation where the person who first plays the chords G D E can prevent anybody else from writing a song utilizing those chords. We should be taking a look at rhythm, tempo and the subtle accents that make each song unique.
Given the facts in Harrisongs, I would say that if the modified sample in Bridgeport was independently performed, there is almost no way that it would have been considered infringement. First of all, the musical phrase only appeared a few times in the song, and was not the main melody. Secondly, the pitch was lowered, which would have changed the phrase to completely different notes (unless they were lowered in octave
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