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Copyright (c) 2007 University of California Regents
UCLA Entertainment Law Review

COMMENT: From Mozart to Hip-Hop: The Impact of Bridgeport v. Dimension Films on Musical Creativity

Winter, 2007

14 UCLA Ent. L. Rev. 93


Lauren Fontein Brandes *


I. Introduction
Throughout history, composers such as Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky borrowed from their predecessors to create new compositions. 1 These musicians reused melodies, harmonies, and rhythms from their predecessors' works in the name of musical progress. Composers considered borrowing to be an effective form of composition, and listeners delighted in hearing how composers reinvented popular tunes and adapted them to new musical styles. 2 Likewise, rap artists today digitally sample from past works in their compositions. 3 They sample to pay homage to past musicians, to comment on past music, and to achieve a certain musical aesthetic. 4 From (at least) the time that music was first recorded on sheet paper, sampling has been an integral part of musical composition, and it continues to be integral to the development of music. 5

The Sixth Circuit's decision in Bridgeport v. Dimension Films threatens the practice of musical borrowing and the development of rap music. On June 3, 2005, the Sixth Circuit issued its final ruling in the Bridgeport case. 6 The court departed dramatically from precedent and set forth a new rule for digital sampling of sound recordings: "get a license or do not sample." 7 It held that all unauthorized sampling of sound recordings is copyright infringement, regardless of the nature of the sample or how small the sample may be in relation to the sampled work as a whole. 8 Fourteen years earlier, the court in Grand Upright Music ...
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