Monday, March 11, 2013

Sousa, Zappa, and intellectual property law

As a flashback, from within R. P. Merges, 84 Calif. L. Rev. 1293, 1311 (Oct. 1996), 17 years ago:

The ludicrous persistence of the rate set at the urging of John Phillip Sousa
into the era of Frank Zappa teaches a valuable lesson about the shortcomings
of compulsory licenses.

Footnote 44 about Sousa: Sousa marched into Congress, along with Victor Herbert of ASCAP fame, complaining that
composers were not getting one cent from sellers of piano rolls. Congress saw him and raised him a

and, of changing IP law:

"U.S. intellectual property law is extremely difficult to
change.... In Washington, it is much easier to stop a bill than to move
one through the legislative maze, and any party that feels short-changed
can exercise virtual veto-power."

Footnote 52: Ralph Oman, Intellectual Property After the Uruguay Round, 42 J. COPYRIGHT SOC'Y
U.S.A. 18, 21-22 n.8 (1994). See also Thomas P. Olson, The Iron Law of Consensus: Congressional
Responses to Proposed Copyright Reforms Since the 1909 Act, 36 J. COPYRIGHT Soc'Y 109 (1989)
(arguing on the basis of extensive historical evidence that intellectual property legislation needs a
broad consensus before Congressional leadership will bring it to the floor for action).

IPBiz notes that the passage of the AIA illustrates that Congress will respond to "big players" over
the objections of "small players." "Any" party does not have veto power.

In passing, IPBiz has earlier referenced Frank Zappa, in particular as to text from
Narell case, 872 F.2d 907 (CA9 1989): Cf. F. Zappa & the Mothers of Invention,
Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970) (sound recording title) (example of original and hence protected phrase).
The origins of "truly innovative inventions"?

As one bit of trivia, John Philip Sousa's father, Antonio, was at Gettysburg for Lincoln's address (John was 9 at the time).
John became an apprentice in the Marine Band in 1868. He was the head of the Marine Band from 1880 to 1892.
"Stars and Stripes Forever" was written in 1896. Sousa and Herbert appeared before Congress in 1906, and had some
impact on the copyright law of 1909. Sousa died in the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading, Pennsylvania
in 1932.


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