Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

First Page



This Note argues that the bright-line rule announced in Bridgeport Music should not apply where the disputed digital sample appropriates only the "sonic" ideas of the original work. The main thrust of this argument is that the Sixth Circuit's holding in Bridgeport Music is inapplicable where the disputed copying is a protected exercise of "fair use" reverse engineering; that is, where copying is necessary to appropriate the "sonic" ideas embodied in the sampled work.

Part II of this Note presents a brief history of digital sampling, including its application in the Hip-Hop musical genre. Part III presents a walkthrough of the Bridgeport Music decision, including its procedural history, the lower court's decision, and the Sixth Circuit's recent amendment of its own opinion. Part IV presents an analysis of Bridgeport Music, including reference to the recent eruption of academic and public reaction to the case. Part V sets aside the bulk of prior digital sampling scholarship to open a new front in the debate: the "Electronica" musical genre, the "Downhill Battle" protesters, and the innovative applications of digital sampling common to Electronica Music. Part VI argues that certain uses of digital sampling in Electronica composition are protectable acts of reverse engineering, and therefore immune from the Sixth Circuit's "Get a license or do not sample" missive. Part VII concludes that, while the result in Bridgeport Music is probably justified, its moratorium on all unlicensed sampling is an improvident attempt to copyright uncopyrightable "sonic" ideas.