Seeking Rights, Not Rent: How Litigation Finance Can Help Break Music Copyright’s Precedent Gridlock

By: Glenn E. Chappell

Since its inception, litigation finance has steadily grown in prevalence and popularity in the United States. While many scholars have examined its merits, few have considered litigation finance specifically in the context of copyright law. This is most unfortunate, for there, a vicious cycle has taken hold: high litigation costs discourage many market participants from taking cases to trial or summary judgment in order to vindicate their legal rights, even when they have strong cases. Thus, parties settle almost every case, which in turn prevents resolution of longstanding precedential questions in critical areas of copyright law. The legal uncertainty resulting from this precedential gridlock generates higher avoidance costs and poses more financial risks for market participants, particularly less-heeled or less-established parties.

This Note proposes one way in which litigation finance could help break that cycle. Specifically, rights holders and defendants alike can use litigation finance to fund strategic-litigation campaigns to pressure the development of precedent. To illustrate how this might work, this Note examines litigation finance in the narrow context of music copyright, an area that perfectly illustrates the problems besetting copyright law writ large. In doing so, this Note flips a popular criticism of litigation finance on its head: while some scholars argue that litigation finance can distort litigation strategy by encouraging litigants to reject mutually beneficial settlements, it is normatively desirable to do so given the unsettled state of music copyright law.

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Cite: 15 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 269

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