Popstar and Grammy-winning artist Justin Timberlake is being sued for $US800,000.00 ($AUD1.04 million) in damages by Cirque du Soleil for copyright infringement. The Canadian performance company has filed a 10-page complaint in a New York Federal Court, alleging that Timberlake used part of the song ‘Steel Dream’ from their ninth stage production ‘Quidam’ and their 1997 album of the same name.
The part in question is said to appear on Timberlake’s track ‘Don’t Hold the Wall’, a cut from his 2013 album entitled ‘The 20/20 Experience’.
Copyright infringement lawsuits are fairly common in the music world. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 provides that if a substantial part of a copyright work is reproduced, then on the face of it, there will be liability for copyright infringement.
To determine whether the musical composition has been ‘copied’, the question is one of quality rather than the quantity of what has been taken. Consequently, a short but striking or noteworthy part of a musical work may constitute a substantial part for the purposes of copyright.
An apt example of this concept exists in the decision in the ‘Kookaburra Song’ case (EMI Songs Australia Pty Ltd v Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd  FCAFC 47) where Men at Work were found to have copied the flute riff in ‘Down Under’ from the iconic harmony in the 1934 folk song Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree. While the original song was only two bars long, and represented only a small part of the later work, this was held to be infringement of copyright.
Copyright law is often a complex and complicated mixture of legal and artistic concepts and Mr Timberlake’s scenario demonstrates the importance of ensuring that a work does not inadvertently infringe another’s intellectual property rights.
Irish Bentley Lawyers have a significant level of experience in all facets of Intellectual Property law including Copyright law. We have been successfully involved in a number of copyright disputes, within Australia and internationally. We are able to assist at the onset of a future business endeavour, advise on protection of works and represent clients at all stages of infringement action.
Please note that the above does not constitute legal advice and Irish Bentley Lawyers make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of any of the information contained herein. If you have a copyright issue, then please do not hesitate to contact the team at Irish Bentley Lawyers – there is no substitute for proper legal advice based on your individual and unique circumstances.
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