For intellectual property, is the best defense a good offense?

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Intellectual property disputes are an increasingly shaping the music industry. For years now, copyright owners have fought to keep their music from being used or downloaded illegally. For many pop and hip-hop artists using rhythms, beats and loops from older songs is common. In other cases, a new song may be reminiscent of another song but not a direct copy of it.

One very popular songwriter is moving proactively when allegations of plagiarism arise, rather than wait for an infringement lawsuit, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, has taken to filing defamation lawsuits against those that claim copyright infringement.

Dr. Luke has served as a songwriter for numerous artists including Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Ke$ha, among others. Recently the Bellamy Brothers indicated that they thought the song “Hold It Against Me” that Dr. Luke wrote for Britney Spears, copied one of their songs. Rather than wait for a copyright lawsuit, Dr. Luke sued them for defamation.

In this instance the two sides settled the case. Both sides agreed that there was no infringement. Dr. Luke explained that his defamation suits are not simply an attempt to preempt infringement suits. In court filings related to another, similar lawsuit he said that the false allegations of infringement caused the record labels to demand indemnification to protect themselves. Thereby causing him actual financial damage rather than just creating a future potential litigation risk.

This strategy may not be the best approach every time infringement is alleged, but it does highlight the complicated and dynamic nexus where music and litigation converge.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter “Why Music Producer Dr. Luke Sues People Who Claim He Copies Songs” Eriq Gardner, Aug. 31, 2011