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Abstract

Part I of this Note examines the history of sound recording copyrights, the role of digital sampling in the music industry, and the basic principles and functions of the de minimis defense. Part II carefully dissects the Bridgeport and VMG opinions. Part III then considers the merits of each opinion and concludes that Bridgeport reached the correct conclusion. This argument rests on the statutory scheme of Title 17 of the U.S. Code and the plain text of its applicable provisions, bolstered by their legislative history, giving life to a unique statutory creature that thrives in a manner inconsistent with traditional theories of copyright law. In essence, (1) sound recording copyrights protect only the form of the substance protected by underlying musical work copyrights; (2) the de minimis inquiry focuses solely on the substance of a given work; (3) therefore, the formal protection afforded by sound recording copyrights should be excluded from the de minimis inquiry.

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