Music Industry

I’ll say it again: It’s open season on hit songwriters

Ever since the plaintiffs in the Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” successfully argued that Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” infringed on the song’s feel and vibe, I’ve been extremely worried about how copyright trolls are now looking for anyone to sue.

Some examples include

  1. Lady Gaga vs. Steve Ronzen
  2. Led Zeppelin vs. Spirit
  3. Katy Perry vs. Flame
  4. Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson vs. Roger Troutman
  5. Drake vs. Sam Scully

If you’re the writer of a hit song, you’re now a target for someone who says that you somehow infringed on something they wrote years ago. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of the song or the songwriter/performer in question. You are now guilty until proven innocent–something that’s becoming harder and harder.

Ed Sheeran has been here, too. He’s currently defending himself against lifting elements of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 song “Let’s Get It On” for his hit, “Thinking Out Loud.” Sheeran has already paid $20 million to settle a suit over his song “Photograph.”

Now he has a new headache. Someone named Sam Chokri is going after Sheeran for allegedly stealing the chorus of “Shape of You”–one of the most-streamed songs of all time and a #1 hit in 34 countries–from Chokri’s 2015 song entitled “Oh Why.”

Never heard of Sam Chokri and his song? Get in line.

It gets better, too. Chokri says Sheeran “consciously or subconsciously in the habit of appropriating the compositional skill and labour of other songwriters’.” He goes on to claim that Ed’s catalogue contains “stolen” material from everyone from TLC and Shaggy to country singer Jasmine Rae.

Until this case is resolved, all royalty payments from “Shape of You” have been frozen, cutting Ed off from a big stream of revenue. Sheeran has filed a counter-suit, claiming that Chokri has engaged in slander and libel.

I’m not a Sheeran fan, but this seems to be yet another attempt to extort money out of a successful artist. The legal chill is growing, too. Anyone with a hit song is now vulnerable to someone coming out of the woodwork claiming theft, infringement, and plagiarism just because melodies might sound similar.

Fer crissakes, similarity doesn’t prove theft. There are only so many notes and melodies to go around.

This podcast at Digital Music News outlines out stupid things have become. Nothing less than the future of musical creativity is at stake here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 38156 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “I’ll say it again: It’s open season on hit songwriters

  • Keep in mind this isn’t about musicians suing musicians. It’s about lowlife attorneys convincing musicians who aren’t in the spotlight anymore (if they ever were) that there’s a chance to win a lawsuit big time. The attorneys are the ones who initiate the lawsuits because it’s the attorneys who actually benefit from them, not the musicians.

    It’s time that copyright law for works of art (not just music!) gets revamped. Or maybe dewormed to rid the law of parasites.

    • I have been saying the same thing about the limited amount of notes and sound combinations. You hit it bang on! Its starting to get ridiculous. I worry for the future of music!


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