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VGM Salsoul, LLC v. Ciccone

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
824 F.3d 871 (2016)


Facts

VGM Salsoul, LLC (Salsoul) (plaintiff) composed and recorded a song called “Ooh I Love It (Love Break)” (“Love Break”). “Love Break” included two different horn hits, which are chords played by a combination of horns: (1) a single-horn hit, consisting of a quarter-note, and (2) a double-horn hit, consisting of an eighth note immediately followed by a quarter note. Both horn hits feature more than 20 times each in “Love Break,” and the duration of each single-horn hit is .23 seconds. Salsoul owned the copyrights for both the composition and sound recording of “Love Break.” Several years later, Madonna Ciccone (Madonna) recorded the song “Vogue.” “Vogue” used rhythmically similar single-horn and double-horn hits, although on different notes in a different key. In “Vogue,” many other instruments are playing at the same time as the horn hits, and other sounds, like a cymbal crash, are electronically overlaid onto the horn hits. “Vogue’s” horn hits feature a total of only 6 times. Salsoul sued Madonna for copyright infringement, alleging that she had sampled “Love Break’s” horn hits without Salsoul’s permission as the copyright owner for “Love Break.” Madonna filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court granted Madonna’s motion. The district court held that even if actual copying did occur, a trivial, or de minimis, amount of copying does not count as infringement. Salsoul appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Graber, J.)

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Dissent (Silverman, J.)

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