Music Business Law


Authored by Dr. E. Michael Harrington


Course Code: OMBUS-595

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


In this course, you will analyze the most important legal issues in the contemporary music industry, including how these issues began, how they have evolved, and where they are headed. You will explore copyright law, including fair use and public domain, and how it affects sampling, interpolation, and mashups. The course explores contracts related to songwriting, 360° deals, revenue sharing, and more, in addition to legal documents related to bands, booking, and touring. You will also explore contemporary and new means of creating and disseminating music, including streaming audio/video and augmented/virtual reality, and explore associated legal implications. By the end of the course, you will have the analytical skills to evaluate a broad range of issues in the industry and evaluate competing sides of contracts in order to author favorable conditions for any side in a negotiation involving aspects of the music and entertainment industry. 

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

  • Analyze legal issues in a broad range of areas connected to the music and entertainment industry, including songwriting, recording, touring, distribution, and technology
  • Evaluate various issues related to bands, including what constitutes fair and equitable agreements between artists and managers, responsibilities of departing and remaining band members, and the importance of the band unit and band name 
  • Assess various songwriting and publishing conditions, terms, durations, compensation, duties, responsibilities, and contracts
  • Evaluate concert riders and contracts, in addition to the legal responsibilities of venue owners and managers
  • Author favorable conditions for any side in a negotiation involving aspects of the music and entertainment industry
  • Evaluate opportunities to resolve conflicts outside of course, including summary judgment, mediation, and arbitration
  • Analyze legal issues that pertain to streaming audio and video, in addition to new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: The US Court System and Law

  • The Components of the Law
  • The Structure of Federal Courts
  • Lawyers, Judges, and Juries
  • Resolution Outside of a Court
  • Assignment 1: Choosing a Law Firm and Lawyer

Lesson 2: Intellectual Property and Copyright

  • Constitutional Copyright Rights and Limitations
  • Fair Use
  • Returning Works to the Public Domain
  • The “Blurred Lines” Case
  • Assignment 2: Argue Pharrell Williams et al vs. Bridgeport Music Inc. et al

Lesson 3: Sampling, Replay/Interpolation, Mashups

  • Composition and Sound Recording Copyrights
  • Replay/Interpolation and Sampling
  • Mashups
  • The US Circuit Court and the Future of Sampling
  • Assignment 3: Argue Bridgeport and VMG Salsoul Cases

Lesson 4: Songwriting and Publishing

  • Publisher Roles
  • Publisher Rights
  • Administration
  • 17 USC § 203 - Reversion
  • Assignment 4: Contract Analysis

Lesson 5: Band Agreements

  • Band Members’ Responsibilities and Rights
  • Band Names
  • What Happens When a Band Member Leaves
  • Departed Band Members’ Use of the Band’s Name
  • Pseudonyms
  • Assignment 5: Analyze a Band Agreement

Lesson 6: Trademarks

  • Trademark Basics
  • Infringement and Disputes
  • Disparaging and Offensive Marks
  • Right of Publicity (ROP)
  • Assignment 6: Trademarks and Right of Publicity

Lesson 7: Managers, Agents, and Attorneys

  • Management: Wins and Fails
  • Personal Managers
  • Business Managers and Agents
  • Attorneys
  • Assignment 7: Resolve Disputes

Lesson 8: Live Music and Touring

  • Types of Venues
  • Legal Aspects of Live Music
  • Concert Riders
  • Concert Riders Part 2
  • Assignment 8: Concert Riders

Lesson 9: Record Contracts

  • In the Recording Studio
  • 360° Contracts
  • Revenue Sharing
  • Single-Song and New Record Contracts
  • Assignment 9: Create a Record Contract

Lesson 10: Downloads and Streaming

  • Digital Music Delivery
  • Digital Licenses and Digital Sales
  • Audio and Video Streaming
  • Live Video Streaming 
  • Assignment 10: Create a Contract for Fans Live Streaming Live Events

Lesson 11: Music Placement

  • Credits and Compensation
  • Underscore and Music Libraries
  • Music in Television
  • Music in Film
  • Assignment 11: Licensing for The Sopranos, Legal Issues in VR and AR

Lesson 12: Social Media, Augmented and Virtual Reality

  • Social Media
  • The First Amendment, Parody, Satire, and Censorship
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality
  • New and Future Legal Issues


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Business Revenue Streams or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.


  • No textbooks required

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


Dr. E. Michael Harrington

Author & Instructor

Dr. E. Michael Harrington is a professor in music copyright and intellectual property matters. He has lectured at many law schools, organizations, and music conferences throughout North America, including Harvard Law, George Washington University Law, Hollywood Bar Association, Texas Bar, Minnesota Bar, Houston Law Center, Brooklyn Law, BC Law, Loyola Law, NYU, McGill, Eastman, Emory, the Experience Music Project, Future of Music Coalition, Pop Montreal, and others. Michael has worked as a consultant and expert witness in hundreds of music copyright matters, including efforts to return "We Shall Overcome" and "This Land Is Your Land" to the public domain, and has worked with director Steven Spielberg, producer Mark Burnett, the Chicks, Steve Perry, Busta Rhymes, Samsung, Keith Urban, HBO, T-Pain, T. I., Snoop Dogg, Collin Raye, Tupac Shakur, Lady Gaga, George Clinton, Mariah Carey, and others. He sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Popular Culture, advisory board of the Future of Music Coalition and the Creators Freedom Project, and is a member of Leadership Music. Michael has been interviewed by the New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg Law, Wall Street Journal, Time, Huffington Post, Billboard, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Money Magazine, Investor's Business Daily, People Magazine, Life Magazine, and Washington Post, in addition to BRAVO, PBS, ABC News, NBC's "Today Show," the Biography Channel, NPR, CBC and others. Harrington has bicycled twice from Los Angeles to Nashville and once from Florence, Oregon to Nashville (3,400 miles).

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Music Business Law can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Majors


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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