Blog 7: Music Copyright and Personal Email Cases, by Armen Vardanian

There are many media law cases can be found on the Internet.  Two of them caught my eye as I was looking thought a barrage of the other interesting articles: a copyright infringement in music industry and a privacy breach, which was related to personal email account vulnerability.

In the first case, Alicia Keys, a famous female singer, was accused of sampling another composition, “Hey There Lonely Girl,” which was previously recorded by R&B singer Eddie Holman, in 1970.  It was discovered that some parts of her well-known song “Girl on Fire,” which was released in September of 2012, had similar musical trends of the early classic.  The lawsuit was filed by co-author of the “Hey There Lonely Girl” Earl Shuman in California Federal Court.  However, both parties had reached an undisclosed settlement, before any procedural litigation was started in court.

This is one of the examples in the music industry, which shows that the copyright law works in the U.S., where someone would protect the artistic rights of the early work.  This case closely related to me because I record my own music and aware of the music copyright law.

The second instance was related to the case in which a supervisor apparently read personal email communication of an ex-employee, who left the company and surrendered her company-issued blackberry.  The ex-employee used the device for her work and personal communication but did not erase the data after quitting her job.  Her former supervisor read about 48,000 personal emails, by accessing her personal email account without her authorization and knowledge.  The plaintiff filed five claims under different violation of Federal and State statutes in the federal court in the Northern District of Ohio.  In court, the defendants claimed that the supervisor read emails on the company owned device and acted on behalf of company’s security and interest.  However, after some deliberations, court decided to favor the proceeding in the case.

In my opinion, reading someone’s emails without prior authorization is highly unethical and illegal, unless there is imminent threat or danger is present.  This is especially true in work environment as most of the email correspondents related to work must remain confidential.  The normal practice at the company where I work is for the IT department to address possible communication breaches to the Security Department, which can take any further legal actions if the situation requires such proceeding.

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