The plaintiff, Nebraska's resident and jazz musician Lars Erickson, sued Oregon's resident Michael John Blake, claiming copyright infringement over a US copyright registered musical work Pi Symphony, which had been created in 1992.
At the beginning of 2011, Blake published on YouTube a video featuring his work What Pi Sounds Like. This had translated Pi's first few dozen digits into musical notes. The video was pretty successful and went viral. In the words of New Scientist, Blake found himself a nerd celebrity, fielding emails and phone calls from multiple media outlets. However, promptly upon learning about Blake's work, Erickson contacted Blake to inform him that What Pi Sounds Like sounded substantially similar to Pi Symphony and therefore amounted to an infringement of Erickson's copyright.
Initially, Blake agreed to work with Erickson in an effort to avoid any infringement claims. This did not last long since, in April 2011, Blake re-published What Pi Sounds Like on YouTube and offered copies of his work for sale on iTunes and CD Baby websites. The removal of his creation from YouTube had been "like being stabbed", said Blake. "This great thing I'd created, and then watched explode, was gone. I felt robbed", he added.
As a consequence, Erickson commenced proceedings before the US District Court for the District of Nebraska. The plaintiff claimed both copyright infringement and unfair competition and sought actual damages, disgorgement of profits, statutory damages, and reasonable expenses and attorneys' fees.
Although Pi is a constant which is also constantly challenged and some people think we should get rid of it in favour of Tau, this irrational number is still there and remains one of the most beloved constants in the world of mathematics. In conclusion, Pi is a bit like the endless saga of the idea/expression dichotomy (IED) in the realm of copyright. Regrettably enough, there is still no IED Day to celebrate with fruit pies.
A copy of Judge Simon's Opinion is available here. Thanks to Joseph Gratz for letting the 1709 Blog know.