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Justify Your Sample

We already have patent trolls and trademark trolls. Are we ready for copyright trolls? Just as patent and trademark trolls are wreaking havoc on businesses, copyright trolls are now wreaking havoc on entertainers. According to Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, copyright trolls acquire portfolios of old copyrighted songs, sometimes even using fraud and deception to grow their catalogs. Copyright trolls then search for, and sue, entertainers incorporating samples, no matter how small, of the old songs in their new songs.

In his article in Slate, Professor Wu describes a recent case where Bridgeport Music Inc., a one man shop, has accused recording artist Jay-Z, of infringing Madonna’s “Justify My Love,” with his single “Justify My Thug.” How can a small company like Bridgeport, without any employees or reported tangible assets, take on a Goliath in the recording industry? Well, Bridgeport does have a rather impressive portfolio of copyrights, and it has been using these copyrights much to the benefit of its pocketbook and the chagrin of entertainers.

Will copyright trolls forcing entertainers to constantly look over their shoulders and seek pre-approval of copyright lawyers may stifle creativity? Only time will tell.

Brett Trout

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