Copyright Law

Author: Allen Bargfrede   •   Course Code: OMBUS-385

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.

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

Lesson 1: Historical Perspective of Copyright

  • History of the Music Industry
  • Statute of Anne, Development of Copyright
  • Current U.S. Law
  • Courts and Understanding the Law
  • Briefing a Case

Lesson 2: Copyrightable Subject Matter

  • Music and Copyright
  • Mechanical Licensing
  • Idea/Expression Dichotomy
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • What Is Copyrightable?

Lesson 3: Copyrightable Subject Matter, Derivative Works

  • Derivative Works
  • Computer Software
  • Pictorial, Graphic, and Sculptural Works, Characters
  • Mashups, Sampling
  • Copyright Infringement

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

  • Transfer of Rights
  • Works-for-Hire
  • Duration of Copyright Protection, Joint Works
  • Copyright Terms
  • Termination of Transfer
  • Length of Copyright Protection

Lesson 5: Notice and Registration Requirements, Copying, Infringement

  • Notice
  • Deposit and Registration
  • Copies
  • Copyright Registration

Lesson 6: Distribution and Public Performance

  • Public Performance
  • Technology and Public Performance
  • Performing Rights Organizations
  • Ocasek v. Hegglund
  • Right of Public Display
  • Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act/Sound Exchange
  • Distribution
  • Right of Sound Recordings

Lesson 7: Fair Use

  • Fair Use in Copyright Law
  • Acuff-Rose v. Luke Skyywalker Records
  • Fair Use in Shepard Fairey Case
  • Case Study
  • Fair Use with New Technologies
  • Sega v. Accolade

Lesson 8: Fair Use, Enforcement/Remedies

  • Time Shifting
  • Injunctive Relief
  • Civil Remedies and Statutory Damages
  • Criminal Penalties

Lesson 9: Vicarious Infringement/Digital Millennium Copyright Act

  • Vicarious Infringement
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act/DMCA Safe Harbor Provision
  • Protection Against Circumventions

Lesson 10: Digital Millennium Copyright Act/Gaps in Copyright

  • DMCA-Covered Radio
  • Copyright Royalty Board
  • Section 115 Reform
  • Other Gaps in Copyright Law

Lesson 11: User-Generated Content and Federal Preemption

  • User-Generated Content Sites and Their Legality
  • Federal Preemption of State Law
  • International/Berne Convention

Lesson 12: International Consideration

  • Moral Rights
  • International Best Practices
  • European Commission Edict on Pan-European Licensing
  • Three Strikes/Piracy Prevention

Allen Bargfrede

Author & Instructor

Allen Bargfrede is an entertainment and technology attorney and a Director of Music Business Studies at Berklee Valencia. He has experience advising music artists, record labels, managers, publishers, and producers, as well as content distribution and technology companies. He also is the Executive Director of Rethink Music.

Bargfrede is the co-author of the book Music Law in the Digital Age, published in 2010. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Boston Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and holds a JD and a BA from the University of Texas and an MA from Northwestern University.


Completion of Music Business 101 or equivalent knowledge and/or experience.

Required Textbooks

Music Law in the Digital Age, by Allen Bargfrede and Cecily Mak, Berklee Press/Hal Leonard

Copyright Cases and Materials (Hardcover Edition), by Gorman and Ginsburg, Foundation Press

U.S. Copyright Code, Library of Congress

Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

  • Level
    Level 3
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition

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