Is a playlist as protectable and as valuable as a song? When I was on a panel at Harvard Law School a decade ago and first heard the notion that a DJ’s playlist was just as valuable as a song, I couldn’t believe it. I recognized the value in a playlist but still felt that there was something especially creative and valuable in a song in contrast to the act of curating songs of others. Today the DJ electronic dance music culture is strong and growing stronger, making the question of playlist ownership even more relevant. Playlists are valuable but are they protectable under copyright law?
The Guinness Book of World Records said that “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized English-language song. There’s no reason at all to doubt that claim. While “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” may be more beloved, there are fewer occasions to sing that song, and it’s a lot harder to sing it well.
In other words, the song “Happy Birthday to You” is part of everyday life. It would be surprising if friends and families celebrating a birthday didn’t sing it. It’s like the National Anthem before a ballgame, like saying “I love you” on Valentine’s Day, and like saying “good morning” in the morning.
Can you legally resell your second-hand digital files? That’s an unusual question not yet directly answered by the courts.
U.S. copyright law’s first sale doctrine says that a purchaser of a legally made book, a DVD, or other physical object embodying a copyrighted work may legally resell that copy. (You can’t make copies of the work or make a movie of the book you bought, though.)
Is copyright law effective in achieving its intended purpose of incentivizing creativity? Professor Peter DiCola of Northwestern University Law School is the author of an interesting new study, Money from Music: Survey Evidence on Musicians’ Revenue and Lessons About Copyright Incentives.
Professor DiCola once named Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois album as the best album of the prior decade. (http://www.thecontrarianmedia.com/2009/12/8717). Professor Peter DiCola showed perfect judgment in that regard. So I pay attention to his work.
What should the law do about resale of tickets for concerts, sporting events, and theatrical shows? The recent 12-12-12 concert for which tickets were on the resale market for prices reported to be up to $60,000 brought this long-time question to the forefront.
Because the proceeds of ticket sales for the 12-12-12 concert were going to benefit Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, the huge price markups struck many as wrong because so much money went to the resellers rather than to the charity. Others say the event organizers should have charged more for the event tickets.