In 2003, Jet was a new Australian band with a debut album entitled Get Born. The first single was “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” which was introduced by a drumbeat that sounded very familiar.
“Hey!” people said, “You’re ripping off ‘Lust for Life’ by Iggy Pop! Someone should sue!”
Well, hang on. A couple of things. First of all, drumbeats are considered universal elements of music and not subject to copyright. If they were, even a simple 4/4 disco beat would be subjected to legal action. Second, when Iggy and David Bowie were writing “Lust for Life,” they were copying a rhythm they heard on American Armed Forces Radio—and they were also inspired by songs from the 60s like the The Supremes’ “Can’t Hurry Love.”
And that song borrowed from a Bo Diddley riff from the 50s. And Diddley copied a ton of other songs for, including a folk tradition called “hambone”—which itself probably originated with Yorba drumming from West Africa that dates back centuries.