Coldplay Denies Copying Satriani In Federal Court Filing

from the legal-guitarmageddon dept

Last December, guitarist Joe Satriani sued Coldplay for copyright infringement over a similar sounding melody. The story generated a lot of discussion here, as people dug up countless examples of other songs with similar melodies (some predating Satriani's tune) to support the argument that it might just be a natural melody to sing over the chords. The lawsuit resurfaced in the news around the Grammys, with Coldplay calling it "ridiculous" and Satriani making an emotional case ("I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much..."). Techdirt reader GK points to the news that, last week, Coldplay's lawyers submitted a federal court filing arguing that any similarities between the two songs were not significant enough to warrant damages. It looks like this may actually go to trial since Satriani is demanding "any and all profits" and Coldplay is standing its ground, but GK suspects that they'll likely reach a settlement in the end, "offering Satriani a sense of vindication and Coldplay a quieter option for laying the thing to rest." That seems to be what Satriani wants.

If this really is a case of independent creation, it's troubling how difficult that would be to prove. In the comments of our original piece, several people noted the case of Bright Tunes v. Harrisongs in which a judge ruled that George Harrison had infringed another song through "unconscious copying" -- not intentionally, but by accidentally using a melody he'd heard elsewhere and had stored in his unconscious memory. The problem with "unconscious copying" and unintentional copyright infringement of a melody is that it undermines the independent creation defense and creates a pretty broad scope for what could be construed as copyright infringement in songwriting. Basically, any melody that sounds significantly similar to another might be considered "copied," even though that happens all the time in music. Plus, it's not like a similar sounding melody in a completely different song is harmful to the "original;" it's not like people are listening to Coldplay's song instead of Satriani's, or that one tune is impacting the commercial potential of the other. There is no functional equivalency in art.

The Harrison case is well-entrenched, but if Coldplay is intent on clearing its name, the case may offer the courts a chance to rethink the decision (or to re-affirm it...). Though, so far Coldplay's lawyers seem to be using a de minimis copying defense, arguing that any similarities are insignificant, rather than focusing on independent creation. At any rate, this could be a precedent-setting case... but don't hold your breath. In the end, it may well just be easier for Coldplay to pay up, settle and make it go away.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:22am

    Unlike hip-hop where they just rip off the accompaniment to a good song and stick a bunch of third-rate rhymes in front of it and package it as "music."

     

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  2.  
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    sir_flexalot (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:40am

    8-bar sample vs. melody copy

    There is an 8-bar "gimme" rule in music where if you want to sample (i.e. exact audio copy) a song, you can usually get away with it, with a wink and a nod to the originator. Unfortunately, if the melody and lead are the same in a "new" song, giving the impression that it is not meant as a sample, and that becomes a platinum hit... for future reference, you better make sure the original author is dead before you try that.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Mark, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:48am

    Classical music

    It's amazing how in the 1600 & 1700s it was considered OK to use the technique of theme and variation using snipets from other classical works to create your new music. I wonder how Mozart would feel about modern day sampling and copyright.

     

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  4.  
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    LOL, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:56am

    Guess this means the end of "Top 40"...

     

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  5.  
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    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    All Coldplay needs to do right now is instruct their lawyers to seek out all the artists who created songs with similar sounding chord progressions *before* Suckriani. Get just *one* of them on board, and file a counter suit against Suckriani for doing the same thing he's suing Coldplay for.

    What do you bet Suckriani folds?

    By the way, Suckriani is such a fucking has-been, he makes Neil Young look like a winner.

    CBMHB

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    OH, Hahaha!

    I see what you did there, you replaced Satriani with Suckriani. How clever as well as subtle.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Stuart, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Satriani

    Wow. I used to listen to his music. It was good, not good enough to keep listening after this craptasticly idiotic move by him. Hope he is cool with saying he USED to have fans.

     

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  8.  
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    DS, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Wasn't this the same melody that was very similar to the Legend of Zelda theme song, which came out before both songs listed above?

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, as I may very well be in this case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Mission Accomplished...

    I was on a mission to root out the one Suckriani fan out there.

    Bonus Bux for me tonight!

    CBMHB

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:23am

    Re: Mission Accomplished...

    Fuck you. I have more than one fan...

    oops.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    DS, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    Come on, look at his user name, he's at the top of his game, a comedic giant. I can't wait to see his riff of Microsoft. I wonder if he'll put a $ in place of the 's'?????

     

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  12.  
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    DS, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:40am

    Re:

     

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  13.  
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    LOL, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Lots of Coldplays sycophants out tonight.

    Fags.

     

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  14.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 11:09am

    Standing Ground

    While I do not so much care for either. Well, I don't like about any Coldplay, and haven't really heard Satriani.
    I do hope that Coldplay stands its ground until the end though. And that they win. By as wide a margin as is possible. Copyright needs to go down. The more restrictions we get on it, the better. That is until it is completely rewritten to make more sense and reflect today's technologies.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    I don't even know who he is.

     

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  16.  
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    fuzzix, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Satriani has a heart?

    Never heard it in his music - it's pretty sterile, even as shredding goes.

     

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  17.  
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    Your Gawd and Master, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    unlike everything else..

    ....where they just rip off the music to a good song and stick a bunch of third-rate lyrics in front of it and package it as music...

    You forget ALL music has the 5/95 dope-to-doodoo ratio. You just happen to be a fucking bigot.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    Ooooooh, "D$ is an a$$hole"

    Happy now? Ick.



    Aaaaaanyway, this is a perfect example of my point:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XnhFR73wOs

    Let's get this guy on board, and sue the suck out of Suckriani!

    GUNTHER RULES!

    CBMHB
    (aka "the comedic giant")

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Brock Jockley, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Fags

    Yeah, that's what we called Satriani fans back in High School, just before we pantsed them and made them suck each other's cocks.

    Then we beat the shit out of them.

    Fags.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Andy, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    Suckriani? Yea right. Nice to see maturity from you.

    I'm a huge Satriani fan, and I personally don't believe Coldplay stole that melody. To me, it sounds like a coincidence that the music fit so well together. I think it'll be very tough to prove.

    Grow up dude. Just because you don't like an artist doesn't mean you have to come up with stupid ass nicknames. Makes you seem like you're 10.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Andy, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Satriani

    So you weren't really a fan then eh. I think his music is great, and if he feels that another artist stole a piece of his music, he has the right to protect that. I don't agree that Coldplay did, but if you felt someone stole something from you, wouldn't you try and protect yourself?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    Hah.

    I made you say "Suckriani"


    CBMHB
    10/06/2000
    (My mom was partying like it was 1999 when she got pregnant)

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Dave, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    DON'T SETTLE!

    Come on, Coldplay has shitloads of cash and Satriani is being a pretentious haughty bitch.

    Fight the case to the end and make that has-been hack eat his lawyer fees.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    DS, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    AWESOME! CBMHB SAID MY NAME WITH A $!!!

    Although I'm not sure how it fits in....

    Either way, regardless of that, take a listen to this..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mceAlfjqGBU&feature=related

    They are all ripoffs.

     

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  25.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: Satriani

    Andy, nothing was stolen. If something was indeed stolen, sure, go and get it back. Except we are talking about copyright junk here. Nothing was stolen. It is not like now that Coldplay has used the tune Satriani can never use it again (and listening to originals of each song instead of the altered ones played on top of each other, they aren't complete similar anyways). This is just how music is. It can never be stolen.
    Sooo, if he feels that another artist stole a piece of his music, then he simply doesn't understand that its just all imaginary property. Its infinitely available. They can both use it and be none the worse off.
    If somebody copied the entire song, note for note, altering not a darn thing, including any lyrics, and then claimed it was their song, I might be able to see an argument.

    In the case of parodies, they give credit to the original author so I can't see any harm there either.
    In short, I think Satriani is just being a whiney bitch.

     

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  26.  
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    kirillian (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    So...ur like 10?

     

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  27.  
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    kirillian (profile), Apr 16th, 2009 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    aw heck...now the Feds are gonna come after me for being a ped because I TALKED to a child under 18.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Dave, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 2:55pm

    Grammy's?

    So when COLDPLAY has to pay up for the rip-off here will the Grammy's stand on all this? They will have to take away the awards otherewise THEY (the Grammys) are endorsing copyright infringement.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Jason, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 4:20pm

    Killing the Blues

    It seems like this case could make every single blues song illegal...since they all sound exactly the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Azrael, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 2:24am

    Re: Satriani has a heart?

    So Satriani is a shredder ? Never knew that. After listening to his sounds i thought he was recording his unnatural acts with goats.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    GK, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    "Perish those who said our good things before we did."

    - Donatus

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    DS, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Fags

    Made them?

    Hell, it was hard to ever make them stop!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 5:43pm

    Coldplay and Satriani

    "In the end, it may well just be easier for Coldplay to pay up, settle and make it go away."
    Hummm! If they are that dumb, I think I will copyright middle C, and sue them for every song they produce.
    After all, it might be easier just to pay up, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    GK, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 6:50pm

    Re: Coldplay and Satriani

    Please tell me you understand the difference between a note and a melody..................

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Digital Citizen, Apr 20th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    get an iPhone to settle it

    I bet the iPhone is smart enough to know Coldplay ripped off Satriani. And for those calling him Suckiani or whatever, that's worse punning than you give his music credit for... and what does it say about a band who rips off someone who supposedly sucks that bad? If Satriani is a has been, Coldplay is a never was for copying him. In denial about copying, in denial about why "their" music really sells.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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