Hello to all the Public Knowledge blog readers. My name is Chris Sprigman, and for the next two weeks I'll be blogging on the PK site (thanks to Gigi Sohn and Scott Burns for the invitation!). As you can see from the box to your right (the one featuring my unsmiling mug) I work as a law prof at the University of Virginia. My work focuses mostly on intellectual property and competition (aka antitrust) law. I am interested in how these legal rules affect innovation and the deployment of new technologies. So my academic interests are closely aligned to the work that Public Knowledge does in the real world.
Enough with the intro; let's get down to business. This is a “tabulation” of a great tune, “You and Whose Army”, by the much-loved and possibly soon-to-be-lamented U.K. band Radiohead. Untalented guitarists like me use these tabulations in a vain attempt to play like Jonny Greenwood.
Guitarists often produce their own tabulations, and a bunch of websites have appeared that collect and distribute these tabs, gratis. But now the NY Times (subscription required) reports that the major music publishing companies are threatening copyright lawsuits against these sites, claiming that the tabulations are unauthorized “derivative works”. A number of the sites, having received threat letters from the music publishers, have shut down.
What do we make of this? Does copyright allow a song's owner to prevent a musician from using musical notation to write down what he hears? What about if the musician posts his tabulation to the web?
Some thoughts on this after lunch.