Copyright law: An example of legal malpractice

Legal malpractice can happen in all areas of the law. One area that is especially vulnerable to issues relating to legal malpractice is the area of copyright law. Imagine, for example, that a lawyer representing a creator fails to appropriately license a piece of music.

Infringement lawsuits are common in the entertainment industry, especially when artists incorporate samples from other music into their own. Also, two songs might be created that are very similar to one another. If an intellectual property lawyer fails to license music or ideas that belong to another artist, a difficult copyright lawsuit could ensue.

Example of a copyright-related legal malpractice lawsuit

In early 2002, a website named "MP3" filed a legal malpractice suit against its San Francisco-based attorneys. The suit, which claimed $175 million in damages, alleged that MP3 used the law firm's negligent advice before launching a music distribution business. Although the music distribution service was a financial success, it was determined that the service violated existing copyright laws -- causing MP3 to suffer serious financial damages.

The basic argument was that MP3's music distribution service caused the company to be targeted in dozens of copyright infringement lawsuits, and that it was the law firm's malpractice and bad advice that resulted in the lawsuits.

At the end of the day, the parties settled the suit before the court could publish its opinion.

Copyright law can involve high-stakes issues

Copyright law can involve issues with serious financial consequences. Hit songs, books and movies can generate millions of dollars worth of revenue. If a party is accused of using and selling certain materials in violation of an existing copyright, claims against the infringing party can be enough to cripple or bankrupt an otherwise highly successful company.

Copyright law and legal malpractice cases

If you have been accused of copyright violations after using the services of a lawyer, the copyright violations -- and associated violations -- might not be your fault. It is therefore important to investigate the involvement of your attorney in causing the copyright violation and whether legal malpractice may have occurred.

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