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Legal Issues in Music: Finding Articles

A guide for students in researching music-related copyright lawsuits and other legal issues in music.


Try searching these databases for the name of the musicians/groups involved in the lawsuit plus terms like "copyright" or "lawsuit." Or, try some of the other search terms suggested on this page.

Source Types

Keep in mind that the databases listed to the left contain articles published in a number of different types of sources, including newspapers, popular magazines, trade/industry/professional publications, and academic/scholarly journals. Pay attention to details such as the title of the publication/source, and any hint the database may provide regarding the source type such as the icons shown below (found in EBSCO databases):

Icon indicating an academic journal article result. This icon indicates an article published in a scholarly/academic journal. Because non-academic/non-research article content is sometimes also published in scholarly/academic journals, be sure you are also evaluating the specific content, not just the publication it appears in.

Icon indicating a magazine article result.Indicates an article published in a popular or special interest magazine aimed at the general public, or a trade, industry, or professional publication aimed at a specific profession.

Icon indicating a newspaper article result.Indicates an article published in a newspaper.

Icon indicating a book review result. Indicates a book review, or an album review.

Icon for book results.Indicates a book, or book chapter.

Icon for a PhD dissertation or Master's thesis result.Indicates a PhD dissertation, or a Master's thesis. For this assignment, pass over these results, as it is not likely that you will be able to obtain a dissertation or thesis in the time you need.


Search Terms

When researching legal issues in music, try some of the following search terms (in various combinations) in your database searches:

  • aboriginal
  • advertising - music
  • authorship
  • chilling effect
  • civil rights
  • computer file sharing
  • copyleft
  • copyright alternatives
  • copyright collectives
  • copyright infringement
  • copyright law
  • copyright lawsuits
  • copyright licenses
  • copyright of artistic performance
  • copyright of music
  • copyright of sound recordings
  • copyright protection
  • copywrong
  • court case
  • Creative Commons
  • Creative Commons licenses
  • Creative Commons licensing
  • cultural rights
  • cyberactivism
  • derivative works
  • digital sound recording
  • DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
  • downloading
  • entertainment law
  • fair use
  • free culture
  • GNU
  • human rights
  • indigenous
  • intellectual property
  • internet music
  • internet music piracy
  • judgments (law)
  • law and legislation
  • lawsuit
  • legal status of musicians
  • license agreements
  • license fees
  • licenses
  • licensing
  • mashup
  • minority rights
  • moral rights
  • music and the internet
  • music downloading
  • music industry
  • music business
  • music industry
  • music piracy
  • music publishing
  • musical composition
  • open source
  • orphan works
  • parody in music
  • peer-to-peer file sharing
  • PIPA (Protect IP Act)
  • piracy
  • piracy prevention (copyright)
  • printing
  • property rights
  • public domain
  • publishing
  • sampling (sound)
  • songwriting
  • sound recording industry laws
  • sound recording piracy
  • SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)
  • streaming audio
  • remixes
  • regulation
  • royalties (copyright)
  • trademarks
  • traditional knowledge
  • World Intellectual Property Organization

Also try searching specific artists, songs, music genres, and legal case names.

If the article is not full text in the database, use this guide to assist you in requesting it through interlibrary loan (how to request digital delivery of an non-full text article to your ILLiad account).


HeinOnline operates on a separate database platform than the other databases suggested on this guide (which are all through EBSCO), and has some unique features. Below are a few suggestions for an effective search:

1) HeinOnline consists of many separate collections, some of which we do not subscribe to. If you type your search term in the one box at the top of the screen and leave the drop down menu to the right of the search box on "All Databases," you are searching across all collections available to Millikin users (unless you select the prompt to search specifically by "catalog," which searches all HeinOnline content, whether Millikin users have access to it, or not).

HeinOnline Search Box

2) You can search by general topic (e.g., "music copyright") or by a mixture of keywords relating to specific music law concepts (e.g., "music copyright" AND "fair use") or legal cases (e.g., "Campbell v. Acuff-Rose").

Search results will be more focused if you put keyword phrases/multiple word search terms and legal case names in quotes, and combine multiple, important concepts to your topic with the word AND between each search term/phrase (use all caps for AND):

Example: "music copyright" AND "fair use" = ~1,100 results  vs. music copyright AND fair use (without the quotes) = ~66,000+ results

HeinOnline search for "Music copyright" AND "Fair use" = yes!

HeinOnline Search for Music Copyright AND Fair Use = no!

3) Once you've done your search, there are options on the left side of the screen that allow you to narrow down your search results:

HeinOnline Date Limit

"Date" allows users to limit their results by decade or a user-provided custom date range.

HeinOnline Collection/Library Limit

"Collection/Library" lets the user narrow results to those within a specific HeinOnline content collection, such as their Law Journal articles, Supreme Court Library, Congressional Documents set, etc.

HeinOnline PathFinder Subject Limit

"PathFinder Subjects" lets users narrow their results by broad topics. You can select multiple topics from this list, but each time you check a box, the results will refresh (you can't effectively click multiple boxes at once).

HeinOnline Section Type Limit

"Section Type" lets the user limit results by the type of document, such as articles, legislation, Senate documents, etc.

HeinOnline Location Limit

"Location" lets you limit by relevant geographical location.

HeinOnline Title Limit

"Title" lets users limit results by the title of the publication they were published in.

HeinOnline Organization Limit

"Organization" lets the user limit results by tagged organizations mentioned in the various results.

HeinOnline Person Limit

"Person" lets the user limit results by tagged people mentioned in the various results.

4) When reviewing your results, look at the preview to see examples of where in the content your search terms are appearing. For example, this is a result from a search for: Copywrong AND Music

HeinOnline search result with search terms in bold

If you click on the + sign next to "All Matching Text Pages," you will see additional previews of other pages in the content where your search terms appear. Clicking on "Turn to Page..." above one of those previews will jump you directly to that specific content page.

5) When you find an article (or other type of content result that interests you), click on the title.

The full text content will appear in the middle of the screen, when available.

To the left of the content you will often see a table of contents linking to other articles in the same law journal issue, as well as a "Cite" button to assist you in citing the content in different citation styles (remember, it is up to you to check the accuracy of these citation suggestions using a style manual such as the Chicago Manual of Style).

Example of Table of Contents and Cite option in HeinOnline

Above the full text content are various buttons that allow you to download a pdf, email content, search the full text for additional keywords, browse/jump to specific pages, or open an new browser tab to search and find similar content in HeinOnline (click "More Like This"). Just hover your mouse over any of the buttons to discover more about what that option will do.

HeinOnline toolbar options

6) If you want to save a folder of HeinOnline content to a personal account, click "MyHein Profile" and click on "Create an Account."

MyHein Profile button

Or, if you are doing research across various databases (HeinOnline, RILM, JSTOR, etc.), consider creating a Zotero citation manager account.

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