Detecting copyright infringement

Joyce Hatto was a concert pianist who stopped performing in public due to ill health. However, her latest recordings carried on being released on the Concert Artist label owned by her husband William Barrington-Coupe, to great reviews. Many questioned the artist's ability to record pieces of excellent quality, while being at the same time unable to perform in public. The story started unravelling when a musicologist pointed out that an allegedly Hatto-recorded misreading of a chord was identical to one on a Carlo Grande recording. Further studies, including a key series of tests by the CHARM research group at the Royal Holloway, University of London, proved that the celebrated late Hatto recordings had been slightly modified and engineered copies of recordings by a variety of other, sometimes lesser-known, artists.

When suspecting copyright infringement, the key is the ability to access the source of the infringement, with a precise point of origin within the copied track, for exact comparison. Where recordings have been copied but slightly altered by stretching or modifying the sound quality, the match may not be immediately obvious to the naked ear and one may have to trawl through hundreds of recordings looking for clues.

On testing copyright infringement with mHashup, a segment is chosen from a Chopin Mazurka credited to Joyce Hatto. One can expect to find virtually identical segments of the same Mazurka by different recording artists. However, the best match proves to be not only similar, but the exact same finger work, with the same accents and dynamics, audible even to a layman. The segment shows an exact match to an Indjic recording, with a precise location marker as to the starting point of the copied material.

This audio match can be tested further by choosing other segments of Indjic and Hatto. All the results point to the same: it quickly becomes apparent that the source of the Hatto Mazurkas is an original recording by Eugen Indjic.

Content courtesy of CHARM, Royal Holloway College, University of London.

With thanks to Christophe Rhodes, Michael Casey and the OMRAS2 group.

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