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Berklee College of Music

Copyright Law in the Music Business

Berklee College of Music via Coursera


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In this course taught by E. Michael Harrington, you will learn the basis for copyright including what is and is not covered by copyright law. This course will help clarify what rights artists have as creators as well as what the public is free to take from their work. You will also learn what to do if someone copies your work and what to do if you are accused of copying someone else. Finally, the course will discuss how technology has changed copyright for the better (and worse) and how copyright laws may change in the coming years.


  • Welcome to Copyright Law in the Music Industry!
    • Welcome! Here we will cover all the details about the course and what you'll need to know to get the most out of your experience.
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property
    • In this first lesson, we’ll start with the basics—what is copyright? What does it cover and who is it for? We’ll discuss the six exclusive rights granted to creators by the copyright law as well as the difference between copyright, trademarks, and patents. We’ll also discuss how to leverage the six exclusive rights as a creator to use the copyright law to your benefit.
  • Copyright In Practice
    • In this lesson, we’ll take a look at copyright law in practice. We’ll begin by discussing the benefits and the potential legal pitfalls of a cowriting relationship. We’ll also discuss the concept of fair use and identify examples of fair use in copyright. We’ll take a look at the concept of independent creation and how that affects you as a creator. Finally, we’ll discuss the public domain and learn how works enter, leave, and return to the public domain.
  • Sound Recording and Sampling
    • Sampling is commonplace in popular music today and this lesson focuses on the legal side of this popular creative process. We’ll define the difference between a composition copyright and a sound recording copyright and how they function. We’ll take a closer look at sampling from a legal perspective and compare it to another popular practice called replay (also known as interpolation). Finally, we’ll discuss the current legal arguments around the practice of sampling and how they affect you as an artist.
  • Copyright Litigation
    • In this final lesson, we’ll take a deeper look at copyright law and litigation—the roles of lawyers and judges, the mechanics of a copyright lawsuit, and the various ways that copyright issues can be resolved.

Taught by

E. Michael Harrington


4.8 rating at Coursera based on 664 ratings

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