Copyright Law


Authored by Allen Bargfrede


Course Code: OMBUS-385

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Consumers are interacting with more music now than anytime in the past. Everything from interactive streaming sites, non-interactive sites, permanent download services, and music in video games, TV, and film are now vital revenue streams for musicians. All of these services also rely on the fundamental principles of copyright to effectively compensate musicians. Every musician, author, filmmaker, or other creator needs to understand the basics of how their creative works are protected by copyright law, and what rights they have as a content owner.

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Copyright Law teaches the basics of copyright and what it protects, and provides students with an understanding of how to both monetize and protect their works from unauthorized exploitation. The course is taught through an analysis of real-world cases decided by courts, and study of copyright law as passed by the United States Congress. Topics include the six exclusive rights of copyright owners, how to register a copyright, the duration of copyright protection, tests for infringement liability, remedies available to those whose works are infringed, and the "fair use" defense. The course also explores compulsory royalty rates for technologies such as interactive streaming, high-profile new media court cases, such as Napster and Grokster, and international treaties to protect works overseas.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Read and understand a court case
  • Understand the history and applicability of copyright to all creative works, with a specific emphasis on music
  • Explain copyright infringement and the penalties and defenses to it
  • Write an analysis of a case involving digital media and copyright
  • Protect your own works from unauthorized exploitation
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Lesson 1: Historical Perspective on Copyright

  • History of the Music Industry 
  • Cylinder to Audiocassettes 
  • Digitalization of the Record Industry 
  • Napster and the Emergence of File Sharing 
  • Legal Downloading and Streaming
  • Statute of Anne, Development of Copyright Law 
  • Current U.S. Law and Six Exclusive Rights 
  • Amendments 
  • International 
  • Courts and Understanding the Law 
  • Briefing a Case
  • Assignment 1: Brief Court Case 

Lesson 2: Copyrightable Subject Matter

  • Music and Copyright 
  • Copyright in Musical Composition and in Sound Recording 
  • Distinguishing Between Musical Composition and Sound Recording 
  • What Counts as an Infringement? 
  • Mechanical Licensing 
  • Who Sets the Compulsory Mechanical Royalty Rates? 
  • Idea/Expression Dichotomy 
  • Idea/Expression Dichotomy Examples 
  • Other Intellectual Property Rights 
  • Sample Case Law 
  • What is Copyrightable? 
  • Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service 
  • Nash v. CBS 
  • Copyrighting a Groove 
  • Assignment 2: Mechanical License 

Lesson 3: Copyrightable Subject Matter, Derivative Works

  • Derivative Works 
  • L. Batlin & Son v. Snyder 
  • Horgan v. McMillan 
  • Computer Software Apple Computer v. Franklin Computer 
  • Lotus v. Borland 
  • Pictorial, Graphic, and Sculptural Works, Characters and Mannion v. Coors Brewing Company Anderson v. Stallone 
  • Mashups, Sampling 
  • Bridgeport Music 
  • Assignment 3: List Licenses for Legal Distribution 

Lesson 4: Transfer, Works-for-hire, Duration of Copyright Protection 

  • Transfer of Rights 
  • Works-for-Hire 
  • Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid 
  • Duration of Copyright Protection, Joint Works 
  • Copyright in Works after 1978 
  • Copyright in Works Prior to 1978 
  • Copyright Terms 
  • Sound Recordings 
  • Termination of Transfer 
  • Assignment 4: Compute Expiration Day for a Song or Book 

Lesson 5: Notice and Registration Requirements, Copying, Infringement 

  • Notice 
  • Deposit and Registration 
  • Registration under the MLC 
  • Copies 
  • Arnstein v. Porter 
  • Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures Industries 
  • ETS v. Katzman 
  • Led Zeppelin case 
  • First Sale Doctrine 
  • Assignment 5: Fill Out a Copyright Form 

Lesson 6: Distribution and Public Performance 

  • Public Performance 
  • Technology and Public Performance 
  • ABC v. Aereo, Inc. 
  • Performing Rights Organizations 
  • Collecting Internationally 
  • Writer's and Publisher's Share 
  • Ocasek v. Hegglund 
  • Right of Public Display 
  • Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act/Sound Exchange
  • Distribution 
  • Assignment 6: Brief a Court Case 

Lesson 7: Fair Use 

  • Fair Use in Copyright Law 
  • Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. 
  • Estate of James Oscar Smith v. Cash Money Records, Inc., et al. 
  • Fair Use in Shepard Fairey Case 
  • Case Study and Fair Use with New Technologies 
  • Sega v. Accolade 
  • UMG Recordings, Inc. v., Inc. 
  • Google 
  • Assignment 7: Fair Use 

Lesson 8: Fair Use, Enforcement/Remedies 

  • Time-Shifting/Sony v. Universal City Studios 
  • Injunctive Relief and Impounding 
  • Fox News Vs. TVEyes 
  • Civil Remedies and Statutory Damages 
  • Davis v. The Gap 
  • Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum 
  • Criminal Penalties 
  • Assignment 8: Brief a Case 

Lesson 9: Vicarious Infringement/Digital Millennium Copyright Act 

  • Vicarious Infringement A&M v. Napster 
  • MGM v. Grokster 
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act/ DMCA Safe Harbor Provision 
  • The Value Gap/EU Article 17 
  • Take-Down Notices 
  • Protection Against Circumventions 
  • Realnetworks, Inc. v. Streambox, Inc. 
  • Assignment 9: Write a Takedown Notice 

Lesson 10: Digital Millennium Copyright Act/Gaps in Copyright 

  • DMCA-Covered Radio 
  • Copyright Royalty Board 
  • Ringtones, Streaming Royalties, and Internet Radio 
  • Current Royalty Rates 
  • Copyright Law Reform 
  • Assignment 10: DMCA-Covered Online Radio 

Lesson 11: User-Generated Content and Federal Preemption 

  • User-Generated Content Sites and Their Legality 
  • Case Study: Who Pays If I Upload to YouTube 
  • Viacom International, Inc. v. YouTube, Inc. 
  • Creative Commons and Other Movements 
  • Federal Preemption of State Law and Sound Recording Protection 
  • Toney v. L'Oreal, USA, Inc. 
  • International/Berne Convention 
  • EU-Specific Law and "Making Available" 
  • Armstrong vs. Virgin Records 
  • Itar-Tass Russion News Agency v. Russian Kurier, Inc. 
  • Assignment 11.1: License Agreements 

Lesson 12: International Consideration

  • Moral Rights 
  • International Best Practices 
  • Three Strikes, Copyright Enforcement, and Piracy Prevention 
  • BMG Rights Mgmt. (US) LLC v. Cox Communicaton., Inc. 
  • Day-to-Day Life of a Copyright/Music Attorney 
  • Assignment 12: Final Project Assignment


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Business 101 or equivalent knowledge and/or experience.


Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Allen Bargfrede

Author & Instructor

Allen Bargfrede is an entertainment attorney and strategist who focuses his work on the intersection of art and technology. He is co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Verifi Media, a firm focused on solutions for the management of music metadata, and Managing Director at Avance, a music investment advising firm. Allen’s past experience includes leading Berklee's Rethink Music think tank and launching the graduate music business program at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, as well as owning an artist management firm and record label early in his career.


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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