The Wall Street Journal has posted a free link to my most recent “Sightings” column, which ran in the “Pursuits” section of Saturday’s paper:
What is intellectual property? Who owns it–and who deserves to get paid for it? Playgoers and music lovers don’t often have occasion to ask such rarefied questions, but they’ve lately become important to the producers of a Broadway musical and the members of a British rock group.
– In November the director, choreographer and designers of the Broadway production of “Urinetown” publicly accused the Carousel Dinner Theatre of Akron, Ohio, and the Mercury Theater of Chicago of copying their work without permission and demanded royalty payments in return. The Akron and Chicago companies denied the charges and sued the Broadway production team for defamation.
– Last month a London judge awarded 40% of the copyright of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to Matthew Fisher, the group’s ex-organist. Mr. Fisher, who had asked for 50%, doesn’t claim to have written the song, but he did write the Bach-like organ countermelody heard on the group’s 1967 recording of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which sold 10 million copies. Judge William Blackburne called the countermelody “a distinctive and significant contribution to the overall composition and, quite obviously, the product of skill and labor on the part of the person who created it.”
At first glance these two cases may appear unrelated–but I wouldn’t be surprised if they both become landmarks in the evolution of copyright law….
Don’t stop now–there’s much more (including, believe it or not, a highly relevant plug for Erin McKeown’s new CD, Sing You Sinners).
To read the whole thing, go here.