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No. 3:11-CV-01129 (D. Or. Mar. 14, 2012)

​Complaining Work

​Defending Work

Lars Erickson

“Pi Symphony”

Audio Recording

Michael John Blake

“What Pi Sounds Like”

Audio Recording

 

Comment by Charles Cronin

Towards the end of his opinion granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss the copyright and unfair competition claims, Judge Simon homes in on what he believes motivated the Plaintiff to make these allegations:

“Erickson’s grievance may be based not so much on any “copying” by Mr. Blake, but rather on the perception that Mr. Erickson’s years of hard work in promoting Pi Symphony were undermined by the sudden popularity of Mr. Blake’s work and the media attention it received.”

In other words, the Plaintiff attempted to use copyright to correct what he perceived as the unfair consequences of another’s lawful conduct. The Defendant used the same idea used earlier by the Plaintiff, of aligning Pi’s sequence of 9 numbers to nine ascending pitches in a diatonic scale. Not only is this merely an idea, but it is one many others, prior to the Plaintiff, conceived and applied.

The court determined that to the extent Plaintiff’s work contained any original musical expression the copyright for that expression would necessarily be “thin” and would protect against only “virtually identical” copies. This appears to be an early instance of a court applying this infringement standard in a dispute involving musical works.

 

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Complaint: PDF

District Court Opinion by Judge Michael Simon: PDF