People who study copyright law for a living must frequently endure the disappointment of seeing an interesting case settle out of court. For example, lurking behind the current Google Books controversy is a fascinating fair use argument – but if the proposed settlement manages to survive antitrust and other challenges, no court will ever have a chance to rule on the fair use issue. And scholars like me will be left wondering what might have been (and whether the settlement actually prejudices future fair use arguments).

Sometimes, however, even a settlement teaches us something about the law. The recent lawsuit in the music world provides one example. Back in December, guitarist Joe Satriani sued pop music group Coldplay for copyright infringement. The allegation was that Coldplay’s 2008 hit “Viva la Vida” was copied from Satriani’s lesser known 2004 song “If I Could Fly.” [...]

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