Part I of this Note outlines the factual and procedural history of Williams and discusses the Ninth Circuit’s analysis in its first and second opinions. Part II discusses the historical background of copyright law in the United States, namely the Copyright Act of 1909 and the Copyright Act of 1976. Additionally, this section explains the structure of a music copyright infringement suit, including the elements required to make a successful infringement claim.
Part III argues why courts should presume access in music copyright infringement cases, and subsequently, abandon the inverse-ratio rule. The inverse-ratio rule should be abandoned because people’s access to music has never been easier in today’s digital world. A plaintiff’s burden to prove substantial similarity between the plaintiff’s song and the defendant’s song, should not be diminished as a result of the defendant’s access to the plaintiff’s song. Instead, a defendant’s access to a particular song should be presumed in copyright infringement cases. This Note does not argue that the access requirement is unnecessary in such cases. Access is still necessary for copying because one cannot copy what one has never seen. However, it does not necessarily follow that more access increases the likelihood of copying.
Williams v. Gaye: Further Blurring the Lines Between Inspiration and Infringement, 50 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 3