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Coffey v Warner

[2005] EWHC 449

Case summary last updated at 28/01/2020 17:06 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Coffey v Warner

C sued D, Warner Bros, for breach of copyright; alleged that a song co-written by Madonna was an infringement of C’s musical copyright, a song called ‘Forever After’. In C’s claim of particulars, however, C defined the ‘musical work’ infringed as the vocal expression, syncopation and pitch contour around the vocal hook “does it really matter” – rather than the actual song ‘Forever After’ itself. Held:
 
·        Performer’s interpretation of music or personal performance characteristicsdo not constitute a ‘musical work’
Ø  thus things not capable of being ‘musical works’ include the performer’s: 
-        voice expression
-        pitch contour
-        syncopation the hook “does it really matter”
 
Separability
·        Whether something is a ‘work’ matter for objective determination by the court.
·        In this case, C could not simply select parts of her song most similar to Madonna’s and use them as basis for her copyright work.
Ø  i.e. by removing the rest of song (which was obviously not copied), was danger of creating an illusion of copying in the parts that remained.
·        In addition the three features identified by C were not sufficiently separable from rest of song to constitute musical work in their own right.

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