Erik J. Badia


This Note offers a comprehensive analysis of the current circuit split regarding how the de minimis doctrine applies to music sampling in copyright infringement cases. Since the Sixth Circuit's 2005 landmark decision in Bridgeport Music Inc. v. Dimension Films, critics, scholars and even judges have dissected the opinion and its bright line rule of “get a license or do not sample.” In May 2016, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in VMG Salsoul v. Ciccione. The Ninth Circuit explicitly declined to follow Bridgeport, holding that analyzing a music sampling copyright infringement case requires a substantial similarity analysis, including applying a de minimis analysis.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision created a circuit split and an unsettled area of intellectual property law. This Note seeks to promote critical analysis of this contested area of law by exploring the underpinnings of the substantial similarity and de minimis doctrines, as well as the holdings of each case and their arguments. The Note offers three proposals regarding how courts should handle the circuit split, and in doing so creates a distinctive way of looking at the music sampling issue to help the federal judiciary frame the problem in a more expansive way.