Institute of Brand and Innovation Law


The Past, Present, and Future Law of Music Copyright Infringement in the United States

13 March 2024, 2:10 pm–3:30 pm

Joe fishman

A general interest lecture by Professor Joseph Fishman, Vanderbilt University School of Law, for UCL students chaired by Hon. Professor Amanda Harcourt.

Event Information

Open to

UCL students




UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation Law


Bentham House
Endsleigh Gardens
United Kingdom

The Past, Present, and Future Law of Music Copyright Infringement in the United States


About the event:

Several household-name musicians - including Led Zeppelin, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Ed Sheeran - have recently been taken to trial in the United States over accusations of copyright infringement. Adjudicating disputes over the question of “how similar is too similar” isn’t a new phenomenon. But the way in which today’s courts are doing it is. This talk will outline the historical development of musical similarity cases in the United States up through the present, including the expansion of protectable expression and the increasing reliance on expert witnesses. There will be the opportunity for the audience to ask questions after the talk. 

The event is only open to UCL students.

About our speaker:

Joseph Fishman is Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee. Professor Fishman’s research focuses on intellectual property, particularly its relationship to creativity and the creative process. He is a recognized expert on music copyright matters. His recent scholarship has covered such legal issues as infringing similarity between songs, the role of expert witnesses in music copyright litigation, judges' definition of musical originality, and trademark issues related to sound recordings. His work has appeared in leading journals, including the Harvard Law Review, NYU Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

Professor Fishman joined Vanderbilt’s law faculty in 2015 after serving as a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School. He earned his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College with a joint major in music and religion, his M.Phil. in musicology from the University of Cambridge, and his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School. After law school, he was a law clerk for Judge Jeffrey R. Howard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and for Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He practiced as an associate at Jenner & Block in the firm's content, media and entertainment group, where he specialized in litigation involving the music industry, before entering the legal academy.

This event will be chaired by Hon. Professor Amanda Harcourt, UCL Faculty of Law.

About our Chair: 

Hon. Professor Harcourt has devoted her distinguished career to the interests, rights and revenues of authors and performers in Europe and the USA. Having started her career in film work, she was lead author and editor of a groundbreaking book on the law and trade practices of the independent film and television sector. She has also been CEO of the songwriters and composers representative body and produced The Ivors (Britain’s songwriting 'Oscars'). Professor Harcourt has particular expertise in the worldwide collective administration of IP rights and the regulatory regimes of administering bodies (CMOs), and has negotiated numerous contracts within the film, television and music industries including label deals, music publishing, film contracts, television format protection & licensing, joint venture agreements, management and agency deals and related ancillary exploitation contracts. Most recently, she spearheaded successful US Federal litigation in relation to a cult music motion picture which resulted in all rights being returned to the control of the original creators. She is now retained as legal advisor to the global songwriters and composers council, the UK trade body for cinematographers, and the UK CMO for film editors, designers and cinematographers.