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Abstract

Music copyright cases are unique, costly, difficult, and complex. It was no different in the case where Ray Repp, a music composer for a Catholic publishing house, filed suit against Andrew Lloyd Webber, the famed British composer most famous for such Broadway hits as Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Repp alleged that Webber’s “Phantom Song,” the theme music for the Phantom of the Opera musical, infringed Repp’s song “Till You,” which he wrote and copyrighted almost a decade earlier. Webber in turn claimed that Repp’s “Till You” was in fact a copy of an even earlier Webber song, “Close Every Door.” The entire litigation spanned a decade, generated two trials, four published district court opinions, and a landmark Second Circuit decision. It involved hotly contested issues of venue, testimony of expert musicologists, courtroom waltzes, courtroom demonstrations by Webber and his exwife Sarah Brightman, and media attention. The author, who was lead counsel for Repp and K&R Music, Inc. in the Repp v. Webber litigation, uses the case as a template to illustrate the unique strategies, problems, and promise of music copyright litigation. The article discusses, on an anecdotal basis, useful lessons to be gleaned from the experience and should be studied by any practitioner who wishes to dive into the maelstrom of music copyright litigation.