Hello, Goodbye

By | 8 December 2016
Beatles album cover by Mark Sardella used under the Creative Commons Licence

Beatles album cover by Mark Sardella used under the Creative Commons Licence


Who can forget the 1967 classic ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by the Beatles? Perhaps not the most diverse set of lyrics of any Christmas number 1, indeed here is a short sample;

“You say goodbye and I say hello

Hello hello

I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

Hello hello

I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello”

Apparently the song is largely a result of a conversation between Alistair Taylor and Paul McCartney that went something like this:

Taylor: How do you write a song?

'Piano' by Ali Moradi used under the Creative Commons Licence.

‘Piano’ by Ali Moradi used under the Creative Commons Licence.

McCartney: I’ll show you [reaches for harmonium]. Now you hit a note on the keyboard and I’ll do the same and you shout out the opposite to every word I say…’Black’

Taylor: White

McCartney: Yes

Taylor: No

McCartney: Hello

Taylor: Goodbye

Bingo! And there you have the Christmas number one. Admittedly this may be a slight over-simplification on my part, but I suspect it’s not a million miles away from the truth!

But what if I, now I’m feeling empowered by these lyrics, wish to use them in my next ‘jingle’? I need to be aware that I will probably be breaching copyright law.  In the UK, copyright works fall into at least one of 8 categories.  See the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  So in this case the lyrics are protected as a ‘literary’ work not a ‘musical work’.  The ‘music’ obviously being protected as a ‘musical work’.  But what is ‘music’ I hear you ask, is it simply the notes on the page? One possible answer can be found in the judgment of Mummery LJ in the case Sawkins v Hyperion Records Ltd [2005] EWCA Civ 565, [2005] 1 W.L.R. 3281 9 [53]

53 In the absence of a special statutory definition of music, ordinary usage assists: as indicated in the dictionaries, the essence of music is combining sounds for listening to. Music is not the same as mere noise. The sound of music is intended to produce effects of some kind on the listener’s emotions and intellect. The sounds may be produced by an organised performance on instruments played from a musical score, though that is not essential for the existence of the music or of copyright in it. Music must be distinguished from the fact and form of its fixation as a record of a musical composition. The score is the traditional and convenient form of fixation of the music and conforms to the requirement that a copyright work must be recorded in some material form. But the fixation in the written score or on a record is not in itself the music in which copyright subsists. There is no reason why, for example, a recording of a person’s spontaneous singing, whistling or humming or improvisations of sounds by a group of people with or without musical instruments should not be regarded as “music” for copyright purposes.

So the lines can be a little blurred in terms of what category a work will fall into. ‘Blurred Lines’ have also been a problem for Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and Clifford Harris, Jr. – remember this case: Williams v Bridgeport Music Inc unreported 14 July 2015 (D (US)). This concerned whether Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, songwriters of “Blurred Lines”, copied the late Marvin Gaye’s

'Marvin Gaye' by Cliff used under Creative Commons Licence

‘Marvin Gaye’ by Cliff used under Creative Commons Licence

“Got to Give It Up”, and should pay compensation. To read the case go to Westlaw International (which also has a new look, having spent a period of time looking somewhat ‘pasty’).  There are many articles discussing the IP implications of this case, perhaps a good starting point would be to look on the Legal Journals Index on Westlaw.


Having whetted my appetite with discussions of copyright and music, perhaps I could turn to the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) for further enlightenment.


This in itself enables a ‘hello’ moment- as you will immediately notice that the SSRN has undergone a desperately needed facelift. This is a result of Elsevier purchasing the SSRN back in May of this year, see http://www.thebookseller.com/news/elsevier-acquires-online-community-ssrn-329824 for press comment.   The website has a new look which makes it feel less cumbersome and as a result it is easier to navigate.  Significantly it has also resulted in the availability of full text searching.  It is not at the level of sophistication of a regular law database, however we anticipate there will be more changes shortly.  The long-term plans for the SSRN are explained here: http://ssrnblog.com/2016/10/05/welcome-to-the-new-ssrn/

Now following my earlier newly acquired interest of ‘copyright in musical scores’, I can search the SSRN using either the quick search or the advanced search option.  Out of simple curiousity I could just search for the Sawkins case and see if this is discussed.  As luck would have it I receive three useful looking hits for me to peruse. ssrn-hits

Alternatively I may want a closer look at what subject matter journals there are for copyright and this I can see by drilling down through the Legal Scholarship Network, then ‘subject matter ejournals’ and finally ‘intellectual property law ejournals’.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind you that research students at the Law Faculty may subscribe to the Social Science Research Network subject matter ejournals. Essentially this is an email notification of the most recently posted papers on SSRN on a particular subject.  To subscribe please email me on Nicola.patrick@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and I will add you to our list of subscribers. You will then receive an email directly from the SSRN with further instructions.

So hopefully a positive ‘hello’ to a new look SSRN and not a ‘goodbye’ to free downloads of papers.

Before I say ‘goodbye’ to the subject of intellectual property, it is probably worth reminding you that there is a LibGuide on intellectual property found here and this will discuss the specific IP database ‘Darts-IP’ in more detail.

And what tenuous link can I make to the line:

 ‘Why why why why why why do you say goodbye goodbye, oh no?

Perhaps it was a reference to us saying goodbye to the EU?

The Law Faculty obviously has its own research site and blog, but are you aware of the information on our new database – PLC? (It was even worthy of its own blog post not so long ago.)

Entitled ‘Brexit – the legal implications’ this section of the database includes articles, blogs and a very useful ‘tracker’. Here, as a snapshot, I can see all government and parliamentary developments relating to Brexit.

So many ‘hellos and goodbyes’ in 2016…

And lets it leave with the Beatles for the last word:

‘hela heba helloa, cha cha cha’

In fact, let’s not,  Merry Xmas!

Nicola Patrick, Research Support Librarian

'Baubles' by Cam Miller used under the Creative Commons Licence

‘Baubles’ by Cam Miller used under the Creative Commons Licence