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"The Legal Encyclopedia of Popular Music is a unique and valuable resource for lawyers and laymen like myself who want to get info about the complex and surprisingly voluminous court decisions about music, musicians, and the music business."
- Danny Goldberg (Author, Bumping Into Geniuses)

"For lawyers, academics and anyone interested in the legal decisions and cases that have molded the way we do business over the past decades, this is a priceless resource. . . . Thanks to Loren Wells and Washington University for putting this together."
- John L. Simson (Founder, SoundExchange)

"I commend Loren Wells, Washington University, and the Center for Empirical Research for compiling this very important and useful database. . . . Congratulations and thank you for creating this time saving and expedient resource."
- Pat Collins (President & COO, SESAC)

"The Discography [is] a legal encyclopedia of popular music that seems eminently useful."
- The Daily Swarm

"A one-stop shop for all your music lawsuit needs."
- Riverfront Times (St. Louis, MO)

"Quite a great resource!"

"[The Discography] frames American case law through the prism of music, musicians, producers, publishers and other fixtures of the recording industry. . . . This is legal research any fan will enjoy."
- Biddle Blog (University of Pennsylvania Law School, Biddle Law Library)

"Are you a lover of music as well as a legal eagle? If so check it out."
- BLAWg in Bloom (Indiana University Maurer School of Law Library)

"Loren Wells and Washington University have created a website for entertainment personnel [and] members of the public with an interest, where you can search case law [by] all kinds of good stuff, so I encourage everyone to have a look."
- Gordon Firemark (Entertainment Law Update)

"[A] fascinating resource which, the IPKat suspects, has the capacity to keep many a music enthusiast well and truly distracted from his day-to-day work. . . [L]et's hope that some good soul with a good deal of time on his or her hands, and who truly doesn't mind being distracted from day-to-day work, will put together a pan-European version."

"Finally a comprehensive database for music law aficionados."
- Music Law and More Blog

The Discography shares its roots with rock n' roll. Chuck Berry brought his St. Louis styles to Chicago, then to the world. So did we. Though currently run and maintained in Chicago (and always looking for local law student interns, if interested), this website was born in St. Louis, at Washington University Law, where it is still housed.

In fall 2009, a third-year law student walked into the school's Center for Empirical Research in the Law with a stack of papers and an odd question, "Do you guys have any use for a bunch of rock star cases?" The product of two years combing legal databases–around 3,000 musical artists, groups, songwriters, and producers were searched, culled from music encyclopedias, "best of" lists, biographies, and histories–the stack contained over 2,400 summarized, categorized court opinions including more than 2,000 noteworthy people. The folks at CERL thought it potentially quite useful, and the student (that's me) readied to make it happen. What resulted is the website before you. Never really just a stack of "rock star cases," it was, is, and always will be a unique, unmatched, and fascinating history of law and pop culture in America.

What's in the Database?
Unending hours thumbing through traditional music encyclopedias make one thing clear: to editors' eyes, the music industry is all about the people writing, performing, and recording tunes. Record labels, publishers, and popular trends play major roles, of course, but reference guides' entries seem reserved for creators.

Such resources were the basis for The Discography, so in populating and expanding content, people took center stage. Don't misunderstand; you can search the Database for specific agencies and labels, copyrights and trademarks. But instead of building data around corporations or causes of action, individuals themselves were searched person-by-person, from Aaliyah to ZZ Top, one at a time. If any of them ever made it to court, and the decision was transcribed, it should be here.

This implies topical expansiveness: all issues within the business–commonplace and obscure, from sampling and fair use, to tax deductions for black leather pants–are here. It also implies limitations, which are addressed next.

What's Not in the Database?
Sitting down to run your Search, you'll likely recall some amusing lawsuits from memory. Didn't Creed once play so badly their audience sued? Yes, yes they did. But the vast majority of cases settle before trial, never decided by any courts of law. Thus, they're not here–The Discography tracks only court opinions and legal rulings.

Even within that limit, there are three more limitations of note. First, data was compiled about people, so any lawsuit never mentioning an actual artist, musical group, or other noteworthy individual was left out too. Further, record labels' suits against downloaders and downloadees were excluded, e.g., Grokster and Thomas-Rasset. They saturate news reports and occupy the highest priority for commentators like Ray Beckerman, whose site, Recording Industry vs. The People, already provides expansive coverage. Several hundred such cases were left out, as were similar numbers in the last, lesser-known excluded category: music publishers' lawsuits against independently-owned eateries and stores for playing CDs or hosting karaoke without licenses. These suits have not been tackled elsewhere (probably because 50-75% of the money received by music publishers goes to songwriters, and none goes to record labels, so the cases don't fit standard platforms). If anybody wants to take'em on, we'd be elated, and want to help.

One more limitation should be mentioned. Our database's value is in its breadth. It will not necessarily contain most recent cases as they occur. Current events appear in the News section, but may take time to enter the central database, if they ever do. Minute-by-minute legal coverage can be found elsewhere.

(If you'd like to be involved in expanding any area of this project, please Email Me and ask how you can chip in.)

How do I Use the Data?
Now you know what's in and not in the data. But you may still wonder, as people commonly did while the project was underway, "What would someone use it for?" To many reading this, the answer is obvious. The facts, theories, and individuals herein define professions and daily lives. Academics and journalists can track and confirm historical hunches, legal researchers can comb prior decisions and rationales, musicians and fans can uncover relevant real-life concerns. But anyone, whatever their interest, can spend endless hours just clicking away in educational amusement.

The Discography brings together sparse, quite often unusual, precedents for musical parties' liabilities. And it does so like nothing before. For this reason and others, it is the definitive source for anyone and everyone–whatever their background–hoping to see the music industry from the other side of the desk.