Yeah… I honestly don’t think there is anyway not to show some influence to at least some degree, that could be considered a copyright violation… if I write a song with jangling guitars am I ripping off the Cure or the Smiths?
The Everly Brothers
Wayback only has crawls from March 6th, which seems a bit off.
I saw a thing with Barry Manilow discussing this. He was mucking about, started playing something he thought sounded really cool, the realized it was Mahler or somesuch. It happens to everyone whose written more than a couple songs. The question is what do you do when the similarity is pointed out?
Chinese poets have been riffing on earlier poems and poets for more than three thousand years. Riffing is perfectly normal and has existed long long before someone thought up books, publishing, or copyright. I hate that Blurred Lines lost in court.
As both an amateur songwriter and an extremely broad music listener (like almost only music I’ve never heard before, well over 100,000 tracks), at least a quarter if not more of my “original” material is quasi-plagiarism (I’m pretty sure I stole it but I don’t know where from) or intentional deep cut influence (more like “Blame it on the Boogie” here than “Rosa Parks”) because that deep cut deserves more love.
Pro songwriters are most likely in the same vein - they’ve “forgotten” more than most people have ever heard.
Add to that the relatively narrow musicological tastes of kids and young adults (the main target for pop music hits) and you’ve got a surefire recipe for this kind of “infringement.”
How jangly? You might be ripping off The Ocean Blue (ripping off The Smiths)
Then you have artists like Amanda Palmer who is very intentionally ripping off her influences because her work is in conversation with them. Then, of course, there is one of my favorite types of songs - response songs. For example:
(Which is, obviously, written in response to Hank Williams Jr.'s “Are you ready for some football”)
Ed Sheeran is in a copyright trial in the UK (he’s being sued) and he testified just today that he has professional musicologists go over his compositions to check for correspondences that lawyers might miss. It seems crazy, but consider what’s at stake. A career’s worth of pay for just one of them might be less than a single settlement.
Also only if the composer heard the song. It’s only infringement if it was actually copied rather than parallel invention, and you can’t copy a song you haven’t heard (or seen the sheet music for).
I know that the point of the claim of similarity is to imply that the two songs are so close that it “must” have been copied, but I think sometimes people confuse copyright with patents. With a patent, if someone invents something and files a patent, nobody else is allowed to use the patented device, not even for their own use, even if they separately invent it on their own without hearing about the patented invention. But with copyrights, a creative expression is only protected against copying, not from parallel invention.
Come on, you happy mutants. Enough sleeping on the job.
I can’t believe that I’m the first to link back to Theft! which should be obligatory reading for any discussion of music piracy, reuse, and intellectual property.
Also it’s a comic.
Spider Robinson won the Hugo, in 1983!, for this short story about accidental plagiarism and automated copyright enforcement:
It’s jangly guitars all the way down the 80s…
See also: “O Tannenbaum”
I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes
Traditional English folk tune, said to have been popular with American troops (in the Mexican-American War? Who knows?)
I’m sure I missed a few.
I just noticed that in your comment. I assume the Kitty Wells song above fits the category.
This kind of thing is what makes the Tom Petty/Sam Smith lawsuit such a complete farce and embarrassing shitshow for everyone involved.
“There is always prior art” indeed.
Everything is a remix.
I still use 'em, so, um…