Thursday, February 24, 2011

Subconscious Plagiarism vs. The Five Finger Discount

In 1971, Beatle George Harrison had a hit with a song called "My Sweet Lord."  Eighteen days after the song's release, he was sued by the Bright Tunes Music Corporation, who owned the rights to the 1962 Chiffons hit, "He's So Fine," which is an almost identical tune.  The judge did not accuse Harrison of purposely stealing the song, but rather "subconsciously plagiarizing" the Chiffon's work.  A judgement against Harrison was paid ten years later and amounted to $587,000.

Vanilla Ice lifted a sample of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure," without permission, for his "Ice Ice Baby" hit in 1980 and had to settle out of court for an undisclosed amount. Ice then re-released the song without the Queen/Bowie sample.  It didn't help the lame recording.

Michael Bolton purloined both the title and the lyrics of his 1991 hit, "Love Is A Wonderful Thing" from the Eisley Brothers song of the same name. The court's verdict included a 5.4 million dollar reward to the Eiselys.

Today, tracking music theft is much more sophisticated thanks to computers and the Internet.  So you would think that plagiarism would have decreased.  However, it is much easier for a song writer to hear a wide range of music, subconsciously lift some of the content and think the source came from within rather than from iTunes.  Others seem to give credit to the original writers, but feel minor additions entitle them to priority in the writing credits.

For your consideration, Subconscious plagiarism or Five Finger Discount.  You be the judge!

Usher had a big hit with OMG, should Homer get the residuals?

Usher vs. Homer Simpson

Lady Antebellum won a Grammy for "Need You Now, this year.  The country-tinged rip off of The Alan Parsons Project's  "Eye In The Sky, " is just a little too close for comfort.

Here is "Eye In The Sky:" by comparison. Be sure to listen to the whole clip, as it has a long intro before getting to the purloined portion.

Finally, Justin Bieber riffs on The Cardigan's "Love Fool,"  The writing credits on the song are listed as Bruno Mars (Peter Hernandez), Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine followed by The Cardigan's Ari Levine, Peter Svensson, Nina Persson,  Maybe the credits should have been reversed.

JB's Love Me

The Cardigan's Love Fool 

If you know of other examples of melody misappropriation, lyric larceny, or rhythm robbery, send us your comments. 


Anonymous said...

Usher's use of Homer Simpson's song makes me laugh. Great article.

Linda Peach Warner

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