Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quiz Time

Every year, I teach a course in Music Industry Law and Copyright Law. I like to give pop quizzes just to see if the students are paying attention. Here's a question which always blows their minds.

  1. John Cage was a respected American avant-garde composer. One of his most famous pieces was called “4’33””, which consisted of him staring at a piano for four minutes and 33 seconds. The piece contained no music whatsoever. Is this work capable of copyright protection? If so, why?  If not, why not?
For those of you following along at home, , what do you think the correct answer is?


Gil Polk said...

I would say so yes because he titled the work, performed the work, and registered the work. while he cannot trademark or copyright the act of sitting at any given piano he can copyright the act of he himself sitting at and any given piano and staring at it for 4 minutes and 33 seconds not my cup of tea but different strokes for different folks

Trip Aldredge said...

Gil, you are close. The nerdy academic answer is: Was the work fixed in a tangible medium of expression? If so, and assuming it contains a "modicum" of originality, it is indeed capable of copyright protection.