Has every song already been written? Maybe.
Not a week goes by without an email that goes something like this: “Don’t you think that [insert name of new song here] sounds just like [name of old song]? What a ripoff!”
Hang on. It’s not that simple.
There are only so many pleasing ways we can combine the notes of our 12-tone scale. There’s bound to be cases of inadvertent repetition and independent discovery of certain arrangements and melodies. And not everything in a song is protected from being copied by someone else.
This is the thrust behind what I call “unfortunate sonic coincidences,” occasions where two songs seem to sound alike but actually feature pronounced differences. Most of the time.
Then we have cases where there’s no doubt that a call has to be made to the lawyers. And when things finally do get to court, the procedures and rules of evidence aren’t exactly what you thought they might be.
Still, there’s no denying that similarities pop up on a regular basis. This video (via Walter) explains a lot.