Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films
410 F.3d 792 (6th Cir. 2005)

  • Bridgeport and Westbound owned the copyrights to the musical composition and sound recordings respectively, of a George Clinton song. A four second long, three note sample from the song was taken and used in a tape loop for a rap song included in the soundtrack of a movie owned by Dimension.
    • Dimension had gotten Bridgeport's license, but did not have a license from Westbound.
  • Westbound sued Dimension for copyright infringement.
  • The Trial Court found for Dimension. Westbound appealed.
    • The Trial Court agreed that Dimension had used the sample without permission, but that the use was de minimus.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court found that a defense of de minumus use should not be allowed when the defendant has not disputed that it digitally sampled a copyrighted sound recording.
    • The Court found that 17 U.S.C. 114(b) clearly gives the copyright holder the exclusive right to prepare derivative works.
    • The Court distinguished this case from Newton v. Diamond (388 F.3d 1189 (2004)). In that case, the infringer had a license to the sound recording, but not the underlying composition. In this case, Dimension had a license to the underlying composition, but not the sound recording.
      • The Court found that the difference was that it was very easy to prove that someone sampled an actual sound recording.