Here’s another example of how stupid and f*cked up the plagiarism judgment against Katy Perry really is

If you’ve been following legal news coming from the music industry, you’ll know the biggest story of the summer has been the unbelievably dumb court ruling that Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” infringed the copyright (i.e. stole) of a barely-known Christian rap song called “Joyful Noise.” (I look at the situation here. More to come from me later this weekend, too)

Musicians say that this ruling is a travesty. Music theorists are confused. Musicologists are screaming at their computer screens. And even lawyers who specialize in intellectual property are losing their shit.

The recent lowering the bar of what constitutes theft of musical material reached a new low this week when a no-name songwriter is shaking down Lady Gaga because he says she stole three notes–a sequence of G, A, B– from one of his songs.

This is totally f*cking nuts. Ambulance-chasing lawyers have launched a war on songwriters and musical creativity in general.

Fortunately, most of the legal community seems to be a lot more sane. As an example, here is a post at Court Houses News:

“Why do our laws allow musicians to be punished, severely, for doing what musicians always have done: listen to other musicians, learn their tunes, and try to improve them — in the song itself or in a new tune — to transform them, which is a fair use of vibrations in air.

“Even before it had been written and published, the first four notes of Irving Berlin’s tune “How Dry I Am” (1919), had served as themes for more than 100 Baroque and Classical compositions. Those four notes begin the Finale of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata in C Minor, Opus 13.

“So if Beethoven had any living descendants, I suppose they could sue Irving Berlin. And if the case were heard by a Los Angeles jury, Berlin’s estate would be in big trouble.

“Sebastian Bach wrote variations on a theme by Goldberg. Beethoven wrote variations on a theme by Diabelli. Brahms wrote Variations on a Theme by Haydn.

“So I guess all of those guys are in big trouble.”

Read the rest of this post here. It’s important that you do.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Here’s another example of how stupid and f*cked up the plagiarism judgment against Katy Perry really is

  • August 10, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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    Regarding the plagiarism issue, a worldwide nonpartisan and regulated review board(s) of like-minded music industry professionals should be established to deal with these kind of issues. The cost of organizing and initiating something like this would be negligible in comparison to the millions of dollars being wasted and pushed through the court systems.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2019 at 9:41 am
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    The melody is the only thing you can copyright as you can only supply a lead sheet, with the aforementioned melody.
    Chords, rhythm and samples, cannot and should not be included in the copyright. The Pharrel Robin Thicke lawsuit caused be grief…
    Just because Robin said about the influence does NOT mean infringement…

    Reply

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