Wiz Khalifa’s Black & Yellow Does Not Infringe The Copyright of Pink & Yellow by Maxamillion


Wiz Khalifa has been sued by an artist named Maxamillion [sic].  I was approached by lawyers representing Maxamillion.  These lawyers wanted me to support them in their belief that Maxamillion’s song, Pink N Yellow, had been infringed by the well-known artistWiz Khalifa in his song, Black And Yellow.  Notice that I wrote

“These lawyers wanted me to support them in their belief…”

that Pink N Yellow had been infringed by Black & Yellow.


Lawyers who are considering filing a music copyright infringement lawsuit should consult someone with expertise in the field of music.  I have passed for having “expertise,” and U. S. district courts have called me an “expert.”  When I deal with issues outside of my field, I call on experts.  The best lawyers call on experts because the lawyers know that their expertise does not extend to other non-legal areas, especially one such as music that requires so many years of specialization.

These lawyers wanted me to agree with their assertion that Wiz Khalifa had infringed the copyright of Maxamillion.  They came to me for my expertise.  They paid me for my expertise and expert opinion but as soon as they received my expert opinion, they argued with me about my findings.

If I could change my expert opinion based on one attorney’s argument, I would either

A.  Not have “expertise” in music

B.  Not have “expertise” in the intersection of copyright law & music

C.  Not have a rigorously established methodology in which to complete the necessary analysis of the recordings & issues

D.  Not have a substantive amassment of opinions I had written that established my methodology and philosophical bent on the subjects

E.  Not have done good work in my analysis of both recordings

F.  Not have personal integrity or principles

G.  Have abandoned my principles and decided that making money was more important than any other consideration(s)

H.  Any combination of letters A – G

To expand upon this….

If the lawyers could have talked me into taking their position instead of mine, then they would have created very significant potential (and I think “actual”) problems for their client (and possibly themselves) when it would be discovered that I had been talked into taking a diametrically opposite position by the attorney (or both attorneys), or I had come to one conclusion and then  taken the opposite conclusion (the deadly, I was for it before I was against it kind of shuffle).  Attorneys for the other side should, and usually do, ask about the conditions that led to an expert being hired by attorneys.  It is a simple matter to formulate the few questions that the other side would need to ask an expert about the conditions that led to his/her being hired.  And when the other side would discover that an expert was either squishy or flexible with the truth or his convictions, or incompetent, etc., they would likely move to have that expert excluded.


These lawyers should have been relieved because that my opinion was not to their liking.  What they should have done after receiving my opinion…  Well, first….

They were right to ask questions about my findings and even argue about my facts and opinions.  After the questioning and/or debate has taken place and the questions and answers have run their course (between them and me), it is time to NOT ACT.  To NOT file a copyright infringement suit.

A.  The lawyers should explain to their client that they hired a music expert witness who thoroughly analyzed both recordings and determined that there was NO infringement of copyright, and that a lawsuit should NOT be filed.

B.  The lawyers have the option of hiring another expert.  If this next contacted expert is knowledgeable about music, copyright law, music theory, and musicology, he will agree with me and give them another rejection.  (The second person/expert they approach could say something along the lines of, “Thank you – you look nice under this light, and I appreciate your money but I have principles and need to decline your lovely offer,” or words to that effect.)

C.  Keep hiring experts until they find the HIRED GUN, i.e., an expert without scruples whose services and low morals/lack of principles can be bought.  This letter “C” option could be repeated if the lawyers are so headstrong as to want nothing more than to file a copyright infringement action.  Often this, in fact, happens and eventually, one can find someone who then, usually unknowingly, falls into the trap of being an expert witness/”novice” hired gun, a lethal detriment-in-the-making.

D.  The lawyers should realize that the expert who turned them down is almost by default a person of high character and principles as this expert is turning down the opportunity to make a very good amount of money.

When an expert says any of the following words –




after initial contact, the money and his involvement stop.  If the expert says YES,” the money and his involvement continue for anywhere from a few months to 6, 7, 8 years or more.  It is in the expert’s best financial interest to tell a client what he/she/they want(s) to hear so as to keep the money and time engagement growing and flowing.

The lawyers should thank the expert for his work, heed his advice, and not file a federal copyright action.  The letters “A” and “D” above were the wisest choices.  But, despite my best efforts, this frivolous lawsuit against Wiz Khalifa was filed.


Here are the two (2) songs at issue.

Maxamillion  –  Pink N Yellow

Wiz Khalifa  –  Black And Yellow

I could (but won’t) start out in this post by presenting a formal report.  It might read like this:

First, a cut-to-the-chase summary:

There are important differences between PLAINTIFF and WIZ KHALIFA with respect to melody, harmony, rhythm, key, structure and lyrics that reveal that the songs in question, despite a few uncopyrightable similarities with respect to two (2) words, “and yellow,” are not substantially similar.


PLAINTIFF and WIZ KHALIFA are both urban/R & B songs.


With respect to tempo, PLAINTIFF is faster than WIZ KHALIFA.

In PLAINTIFF, the tempo is 90 beats per minute.

In WIZ KHALIFA, the tempo is 82 beats per minute.


The songs are in different keys.

PLAINTIFF is in the key of G Major.

WIZ KHALIFA is in the key of D Minor.

The difference between the songs with respect to key is significant due to the nature of a song in a major key as opposed to a minor key.

According to the Harvard Dictionary Of Music, 4th Edition, 2003 (p. 443) since the 1500’s, major keys have often been associated “with happiness or brightness and minor keys with sadness or darkness.”


The report might look like that at the outset.  It would then go on and on.

Instead, I had an odd confluence of two (2) Wiz Khalifa spottings recently that led to this blog post.  Someone emailed me about the Wiz Khalifa case.  An hour later, I stumbled upon this lawyer’s blog and in particular her few words about the Wiz Khalifa case.  Rather than devote much time to what she had written, I decided to quickly write my thoughts about this case (from relatively distant memory) and disagree with a point:


One more time, so you don’t have to scroll – here are the recordings at issue:

Maxamillion  –  Pink N Yellow

Wiz Khalifa  –  Black And Yellow

The choruses to both songs are EXTREMELY DIFFERENT as are the lyrics and other parts of both songs.

This is one of the most absurd music copyright infringement lawsuits ever filed.

Wiz is in a minor key and features a chord progression.
Maxamillion is in a major key and does not have a chord progression (it is essentially a single chord from beginning to end).

Wiz is sung.
Maxamillion features no singing.

There are only two (2) words in common between both songs:

“and yellow.”

In Wiz, the emphasized syllable is “Black” (“Black” is on the downbeat)
In Maxamillion, the emphasized syllable is “Yel” of “Yellow (“Yel” is on the downbeat.)

Again, there is NO copyrightable melody or even short copyrightable MELODIC phrase in common between both songs.

There are NO copyrightable rhythms or rhythmic figures between both songs.

There are NO copyrightable harmonies or harmonic progressions between both songs.

I know of NO copyrightable similarities between both songs.

Do you know of ANY music copyright infringement case (not involving sampling) in which there was NO melody in common between both songs?

Do you know of ANY music copyright infringement case in which only two (2) very common words were in common between both songs? (“And yellow”) And these two words were SUNG in one song and rapped in the other. Therefore, there is no melodic similarity here either.

Again, the rhythms between “BLACK and yellow” and “pink and YEL-low” are four 16th notes but the rhythmic accents are in different places: the first 16th (downbeat) of Wiz (“Black”) v. the 3rd 16th (upbeat) of Maxamillion (“Yel” of “yellow”).


In important news, the Boston Red Sox lead the St. Louis Cardinals 3 games to 2 in the 2013 World Series.  I spoke at St. Louis University Law School on the night of Game 1 (Wednesday, October 23, 2013).  My Bostonian self was the only thing Bostonian about that wonderful night with really good faculty and students in that nice city.  My superstitions prevent me from saying, writing or even thinking anything else about the 2013 World Series.  Except to say –

Go Red Sox – I’m thrilled at their 2013 season!

The Beatles, Red Sox, Cardinals, Boston, St. Louis & Arizona


The Beatles, Red Sox, Cardinals, Boston, St. Louis & Arizona

For Any Anniversary of The Beatles  –  An Overview of The Beatles

Meeting E. Michael Harrington

The Boston Red Sox won the American League Championship Series last night beating a great Detroit Tigers team 4 games to 2.  We Bostonians will always remember with pain and disdain the number:


86 years

The Red Sox went 86 years without winning a World Series – 1918 until 2004.  I am tempted to write a lot about last night and these fantastic baseball games between the Red Sox & Tigers and before that the Red Sox – Tampa Bay Rays series.  (I wish they were still the DEVIL RAYS but some anti-devil people got their way with forcing that two-syllable word out of their name.)


I was in Arizona last week where the NFL team is the Cardinals who are from St. Louis. St. Louis has the MLB Cardinals.  I’ll be speaking in St. Louis (at St. Louis University Law School) this Wednesday, October 23, 2013 which is also the date of Game 1 of the 2013 World Series.  The St. Louis Cardinals will be in Boston to play the (my) Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series.  This is an odd but fun confluence of baseball, cardinals, Red Sox, Arizona, St. Louis, Boston and the color red (logos and uniforms of these teams, birds, color of rocks in Sedona and Arizona, etc.).

And one more – my friend, the late famous Michael Harrington, author of the ground-breaking, The Other America: Poverty In Americawas really Edward Michael Harrington and from St. Louis.  I too am Edward Michael Harrington.  The famous Michael Harrington, while in graduate school at the University of Chicago, was told by very good-looking women, that he should go by his middle name, “Michael,” because it was “much sexier than ‘Edward.'”  That is why he is known as “Michael Harrington” and not “Edward Harrington.”

I was called “Michael” from birth so as to not be called, “Junior” or “Little Ed.”  My father did not want his son to be called “little” or “Junior” or worse!  I started to be called “E. Michael” by friends in high school because we were great fans of Harvard organist and Columbia Records artist, E. Power Biggs.  That is how I became “E. Michael” (although some friends call me, E. Power).  It is also a perfect way to be connected via the letter “E” to my Dad.

The important and famous E. Michael Harrington and I also were only children born into Irish Catholic families, an extremely noteworthy and rare event in 20th century United States of America.  Our Irish fathers were policemen and our Irish mothers were nurses (not very unusual).  We also shared the same politics (I love that).  He was from St. Louis and I am from Boston (we are both hometown pride people).

E. Michael Harrington and I met in Pittsburgh on May 7, 1982 (a great and easy day for me to remember).  He asked me what the “E” stood for.  When I told him, he said, “look at this” and pulled out his American Express card.  (May 7, 1982 was also when I first saw an American Express credit card – his.  In May 1982, I did not make enough money to have a credit card.)  Having those important Irish, cultural, parental, political and lover-of-women things in common started our friendship.)



I was asked to write a piece about The Beatles for a national publication about 12 years ago.  As part of the deal, I was going to be paid a few hundred dollars and forced to give up my copyright in what I had written.  I thought that giving up my copyright – the right to use my own words – for such a small sum was foolish.  So, I declined their offer and kept the article.

Every few years, or even every year, there are great reasons to have Beatles’ anniversaries.  The “it was twenty years ago today” line can keep getting larger.  Eventually it will be a triple digit event – I expect people in 2092 will celebrate, “It was 125 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.”

Here is most of what I wrote about The Beatles.  I’ll alter the original digits to make this accurate for 2013, and leave out the best part so that I can return with really good links to improve this post.


T H E     B E A T L E S

Any Date Should Be An Excuse For An Anniversary Celebration

1. The Beatles are back.  2. The Beatles never went away.  3.  In the future, the Beatles will be back and never go away.  (New Beatles fans will assure that their music is still heard.)

Although they disbanded 43 years ago, the Beatles’ impact is still felt as their shadow is cast over almost every musical style and aspect of the U.S. and international music industry.   With the release of new social media accounts, websites, CD’s, DVD’s, books, collaborations, interactive media, “authorized mashups,” television specials and more, longtime fans are being reminded of their greatness, while new generations of Beatles’ fans are being created.  They still sound great to those who were there in the 1960’s, and because no other comparable artists have come along since, they keep sounding better in hindsight.

The Beatles revolutionized popular music – the intensity and depth of the public’s reaction to them has never been approached.  Only a handful of the popular music artists who were prominent before the Beatles remained popular after the Beatles.  Elvis had 14 #1 hits before the Beatles, but only 1 after the Beatles.  Only a few Motown acts and the Beach Boys were popular before and after the Beatles.

The Beatles arrived at the perfect moment historically when they began recording in 1963 and invading the U. S. and the rest of the world in 1964.  Between 1959-1963, rock & roll was in its dullest period as the careers of many of its pioneers were in hiatus or had ended.  A plane crash had taken the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson, Chuck Berry had been jailed for violation of the Mann Act, Little Richard had left the secular for the religious world, Jerry Lee Lewis had drawn the wrath of the public for marrying his 14 yr. old cousin before legally divorcing his second wife, and Elvis Presley was softening his image by trying to appeal to adults and becoming a movie star.   In addition, the large out-of-touch record labels were trying to hoist bland and safe white cover artists (principally, Pat Boone, Frankie Avalon and Fabian) onto the public.  And on November 22, 1963, three important events occurred, only one of which caught the world’s attention – President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  (The Beatles released their second album in England – “With The Beatles” – and novelist Aldous Huxley died also on that day.  Who could have known that the best and worst events of 1963 would have occurred on the same day?)   Many of us alive then will remember just how bleak a time it was – our popular young President had been killed, it was a cold winter, and except for a few Motown artists, there was little exciting popular music.

So, on February 9, 1964, when the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the public was ready for good news and good revolution.  The reaction to this television show and the Beatles cannot be overestimated.  In 1964 alone, The Beatles had 19 Top 40 hits!  In comparison, Michael Jackson’s best year was 1983 with 6 Top 40 hits; Elvis’s was 1956 with 11 Top 40 hits.

The Beatles convincingly fused widely disparate influences throughout their seven-year recording career as they assimilated U.S. rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, country, Motown, R & B, soul, Tin Pan Alley, Afro-Cuban, bossanova, classical, and Indian music influences.   They also steadfastly avoided following any fads or attempting to be “cool” or something which they were not.  Each of their albums was a significant musical event complete with the seemingly incongruous achievements of important artistic innovations and great popular appeal.

The Beatles had many firsts.  They were the first rock group to have all five of the Top 5 songs in the same week, 11 songs in the Top 100 in the same month, to create music videos (16 years before the debut of MTV), use feedback and distortion on a recording, use the fade-in, the electric 12-string guitar, the sitar, an Indian ensemble, record a song for string quartet and acoustic guitar, record a song using only string octet, use the French horn and piccolo trumpet as solo instruments, use tape speed manipulation, and backwards tape, to name a few.

The Beatles were the antithesis of “safe” – with each album released, they had the “safe” and extremely successful product.  Almost any other artist/s who could attain this much success would certainly do only ONE thing next – repeat the exact steps to try to repeat the exact success.  Almost all artists then and now would not stray from a winning formula.

This is exactly where the Beatles differed completely from everyone else.  The Beatles would always take the adventurous and risky path by throwing away the proven recipe for business success and doing something which ARTISTICALLY pleased them.  Against all odds and “common” sense, they would succeed and then lead society and other musicians down a new road.

They wrote music for all ages and all the ages.  These are some of my favorite categories in which to place Beatles songs (I’ll expand upon this and provide great links in another post):


aging adults



the politically motivated

the cry in your beer crowd



lovers of love songs

community activists

songs for weddings

songs for divorcees

song for deep thinkers and critics (an oxymoron similar to “military intelligence?”)

In 2014, we’ll be singing, “it was 50 years ago today….” as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and the other initial wave of Beatles ‘ hits.  In 2017, “it was 50 years ago today,” will refer to the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper – in 2020, the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ breakup.  And so on and on with future Beatles’ anniversaries.

Their final words on their final album were meant to inspire:  “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”




In Phoenix Before The Dust Storm, the Birthday of EMichaelMusic.com & John Lennon & Listen to Moses


One year ago today (October 9, 2012), I wrote my first blog post on emichaelmusic.com. I knew October 9 was John Lennon’s birthday and thought that my new effort should coincide with a day that had meaning to me.  All things John Lennon have always been important to me.  I would not have become a musician if not for The Beatles and Lennon was my favorite Beatle.  (If you were alive in 1964 when The Beatles invaded my continent, you had a favorite Beatle.)


I did something similar back when I was a graduate student at the University of Miami.  I needed to set a deadline to finish my orchestral composition that would be at the center of my master’s thesis.  I thought that the summer would be the best to time to complete a project this large, thought about what are my favorite dates, and then chose July 2, the date in which Thomas Jefferson finished writing the Declaration of Independence .  So, on July 2, I successfully pulled off something as responsible, mature and adult-ish as completing a large project on time that loomed many months ahead.  And as an extra bonus and most importantly, I loved the music I had written.  My orchestral master’s thesis is entitled:

C H E M I C A L      F O L K L O R E

Someday I might write about it here, but not today.


Today I am in Phoenix, Arizona to speak to NARIP about my work in music copyright/IP, publishing and advertising, and to spout and rant too.  My 3-hour interactive lecture to NARIP will take place on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at Paradise Valley Community College.  I’ve been referring this college as Paradise.  I like to abbreviate names sometimes especially when the abbreviated name seems appropriate – this area is really beautiful!

I’ll also discuss digital issues and possibly the fair and essential use of sampling as well.  By essential use of sampling, I am referring to situations when one MUST sample without permission in order to create a PARODY.  (Is Essential Sampling a good phrase?  Should it be Requisite Sampling?  Compulsory Sampling?  Sampling Because You Must?)  That First Amendment thing is important and should trump other given rights at times.

I’ll leave this topic now.  Near the end of my last talk at Harvard Law School on April 15, 2013, I first brought up this YOU MUST SAMPLE TO PARODY (in these specific examples) idea.  It was risky to talk this way then and there and maybe more so today.  But also, in three hours of interactivity today – interactivity is not the same as hyperactivity – this issue does not have to come up.  I’ll ponder another time or two between now and 2  PM and decide about this FORCED/ENFORCED sampling notion.


There is a “BLOWING DUST ADVISORY for GREATER PHOENIX AREA, AZ” today and tomorrow here in Phoenix – blowing winds, reduced vision, warnings that cars must pull over, stop and hope for the best.  People shouldn’t breathe or be outside….  And I’ll be wearing my best black suit!  Yikes – this is not Gloucester MA or Nashville TN.  I am in a real desert – the Sonoran Desert – in the real, wild American West.


And the best news for last – The BOSTON RED SOX won the ALDS last night beating Tampa 3 games to 1.  We were the worst team in baseball last year.  This year, objectively speaking, we are the best!  It was preordained.

“Listen to Moses!”