WUSTL

From writing-off leather pants to copyright disputes: New database chronicles legal side of music industry

School of Law’s Center for Empirical Research in the Law and a recent law alum launch thediscography.org
By Jessica Martin

Do black leather pants qualify as a tax deduction for rock stars?

Fans, musicians, journalists, researchers and anyone else interested in music can see how the courts dealt with this question and nearly any other legal issue involving the music industry at The Discography: Legal Encyclopedia of Popular Music accessible through thediscography.org.

The site was created by Loren Wells, JD, musician and recent graduate of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and is supported by the Center for Empirical Research in the Law (CERL) at the School of Law.

The site’s database — the most elaborate of its kind — covers 2,400 court opinions spanning nearly 200 years of the music industry.

The opinions, ranging from copyrights and contracts to taxes, torts and more, are fully summarized and searchable by a number of variables such as artist, location, timeframe issue and more.

“You can see nearly all of U.S. law through the cases and while the cases are educational, they’re also immensely entertaining,” Wells says.

“The Discography is for anyone who legitimately wants a balanced perspective of the music industry and an appreciation for the people who make it happen.” 

Wells started in the music industry with small rock shows and then moved onto playing the House of Blues and record label showcases. He strayed from the stage briefly to attend law school.

Thediscography.org also features a blog that highlights interesting cases, artwork by Wells and a news section on current legal events in the music industry.

CERL provides the technical platform to deliver Wells’ database to anyone who would like to access it.

“We took an uncut gem and presented it in a defined form,” says Andrew D. Martin, PhD, CERL director and professor of law.

“The Discography is exciting because it’s an extraordinary collection of information that did not previously exist.

Martin says the project is being driven by a “very passionate student” and is a departure from the staid, faculty projects that CERL normally supports.

“The value of the database is immense,” says Martin, who also is professor and chair of the Department of Political Science in Arts & Sciences. “Through the lens of music cases we’re able to understand a great deal of American law.”

CERL’s research technologist Troy DeArmitt says Wells put a lot of energy and knowledge into constructing this body of information.

“It would be criminal if this information was not accessible to the world,” DeArmitt says.

Editor’s Note: Loren Wells, Andrew Martin and Troy DeArmitt are available for live or taped interviews using Washington University’s free VYVX or ISDN lines. Please contact Jessica Martin at (314) 935-5251 or jessica_martin@wustl.edu for assistance.
 

MEDIA CONTACTS
Jessica Martin
Associate Director of University News, Director of News for Law and the Brown School
(314) 935-5251
jessica_martin@wustl.edu
EXPERTS @ WUSTL
Andrew Martin
Professor of Political Science in Arts & Sciences and Professor of Law
(314) 935-5863
admartin@artsci.wustl.edu