‘Psycho-Acoustic’ Defense Can’t Get BlueBeat Off Beatles Copyright Claim

File under “not surprising”. In the case of an online music retailer that had tried claiming it owned copyright to Beatles songs because it had reverse-engineered and rerecorded them, a judge has effectively ruled “nice try”.

Twelve months before Apple secured an exclusive on selling The Fab Four digitally, EMI filed a copyright abuse claim against BlueBeat in November 2009, for selling Beatles tracks without authorisation at just 25 cents each.

But the site’s owner Hank Risan, in a particularly ballsy defense, had argued BlueBeat itself owned copyright on the tracks it was selling, because he had used a “psycho-acoustic simulation device” to deconstruct, perform and rerecord “entirely new and original sounds” – simulations, that just happened to sound like the originals.

Reuters: “According to BlueBeat, the scheme was protected by a section in the copyright law that doesn’t extend rights of copyright owners to ‘the making or duplication of another sound recording that consists entirely of an independent fixation of other sounds, even though such sounds imitate or simulate those in the copyrighted sound recording’.”

But Judge Josephine Staton Tucker, in her judgement, states: “Risan’s obscure and undefined pseudo-scientific language appears to be a long-winded way of describing “sampling,” i.e. copying, and fails to provide any concrete evidence of independent creation.”

“BlueBeat fails to provide any evidence … showing how or why its purported ‘simulations’ are anything but illicit copies of the Copyrighted Recordings… BlueBeat is liable for copyright infringement, misappropriation, unfair competition, and conversion.”

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) sold more than 450,000 albums and two million singles during the first seven days in which it had The Beatles on iTunes Store.