US Appeals court gives funkmaster George another victory

December 2009

Music publishing

George Clinton has done rather well out of music sampling lawsuits – he is a heavily sampled artist. Now songwriters David Spradley, Garry Shider along with George have won another claim after their track Atomic Dog was sampled.  The trio created the song and recording in a recording studio in January 1982, working without a written score. The track was released in the same year on the Computer Games album issued by Capitol Records, which retained the sound-recording copyright to the album. Spradley, Shider, and Clinton later transferred their interest in the composition of “Atomic Dog” to Bridgeport. This case arose out of an alleged sample of the track – in particular the sample of certain phrases. Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey set out the background to the case which is one of several hundred filed by Bridgeport Music, Inc., and Southfield Music, Inc., against entities and/or individuals associated with the ‘rap’ or ‘hip-hop’ music industry,” seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages from some 800defendants for copyright infringement under the federal copyright statute, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq. Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Still N The Water Publishing, 327 F.3d 472, 475(6th Cir. 2003), one of 476 separate actions alleging infringement of musical compositions and sound recordings.  The matter before the appeals court was a claim that arose after Public Announcement, an R&B and hip hop group, released the song “D.O.G. in Me” on their All Work, No Play album in 1998. Bridgeport claims that “D.O.G. in Me” infringed its copyright on Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” based on the use of the phrase “Bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea” (the “Bow Wow refrain”), as well as use repetition of the word “dog” in a low tone of voice at regular intervals and the sound of rhythmic panting in “D.O.G. in Me.” A jury later found UMG Recordings, Inc., and Universal Music Group, Inc. (collectively, UMG or the defendant), to have willfully infringed Bridgeport’s rights in “Atomic Dog” and awarded statutory damages of $88,980. UMG has appealed the verdict, claiming that the jury was improperly instructed and that UMG was entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law on the question of “substantial similarity.” The appeals court said quite simply “We find no reversible error and affirm”. You can find the judgment in full at  and see At Last …. the 1709 Copyright Blog at

No Comments

Comments are closed.