Thursday, March 26, 2020

A hit, a writ: why music is the food of plagiarism lawsuits | The Guardian

With Katy Perry and Led Zeppelin’s recent judgments reversing previous rulings, musicians don’t know which way to tread

Have you written a song? A song so memorable that everyone who hears it starts humming it? A song so good it feels as though it has been around forever and you simply plucked it from the ether? Then a word of advice: get an expert to listen to it. Because somewhere, someone is going to be sure your song was copied from theirs.

An old music industry adage holds that “where there’s a hit, there’s a writ”. It was true in 1963, when the Beach Boys released Surfin’ USA, and Chuck Berry duly noted that the song was simply his own 1958 hit Sweet Little Sixteen with new lyrics (Berry’s publisher, Arc Music, was granted the publishing rights, and from 1966 Berry was listed alongside Brian Wilson as a writer of the song). And it’s especially true now after several recent cases.

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