Joe Satriani Sues Coldplay For Copyright Infringement

from the name-that-tune dept

Guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani has sued Coldplay for copyright infringement over claims that their hit single, Viva La Vida, used “substantial original portions” of his song If I Could Fly from 2004, seeking damages for “any and all profits.” The lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles federal court. Call me a skeptic, but it was just back in June when we wrote about a band called Creaky Boards making a similar claim. The difference is that the Creaky Boards didn’t sue. They made a cheeky video and used the opportunity to get some attention (also, later retracting the statement after Coldplay refuted it). However, one notable difference here is that Coldplay was very unlikely to have heard the Creaky Boards song, while Joe Satriani is well known, especially among guitarists. When you listen to this clip, the melodies are certainly very similar:


But does that mean it was copied? Most people’s knee-jerk reaction is to assume it must have been, but here’s an idea: Creaky Boards, Coldplay and Joe Satriani all have a similar melody over a similar chord sequence. When Coldplay responded to Creaky Boards, Chris Martin called it a “simple coincidence.” Is it not plausible that it’s just a somewhat natural melody to sing over those chords? You can’t copyright a chord sequence. If you search YouTube for these sorts of claims, you quickly realize that a lot of songs sound the same. Some cases are blatant infringement, but for most, there are only so many notes in a scale…

Chris Martin has said: “We’re definitely good, but I don’t think you can say we’re that original. I regard us as being incredibly good plagiarists.” I bet he wishes he hadn’t said that now, but to what extent is that true about all of our ideas? Isn’t a certain element of “plagiarism” a natural part of the creative process? Where’s the line between plagiarism and inspiration? Of course, trying to pass someone’s work off as your own is bad because it’s dishonest and you aren’t giving proper credit, and your reputation will likely suffer for it if someone finds out. But even if Coldplay did get the melody from Satriani (whether consciously or unconsciously), how much damage have they done? If you listen to the theme of Satriani’s song and the verse of Coldplay’s, the melodies are very similar, but the songs in their entirety are very different. Coldplay takes the song in a completely different direction in the chorus, while that melody is Satriani’s chorus. Coldplay’s song has lyrics, Satriani’s is instrumental. They appeal to different audiences, they’re very different songs. Even if it is an case of infringement, how significant is it?

That’s saying little about the legal realities though. It’s bound to be a sticky issue in court. Coldplay will likely claim independent creation to try and clear their name (unless they did blatantly rip it off, in which case they might look for a settlement). How do you prove whether or not someone came up with a melody independently? How many notes or rhythms need to be similar to prove that one melody is a derivative of another? This is going to be an interesting case to watch.

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Comments on “Joe Satriani Sues Coldplay For Copyright Infringement”

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188 Comments
cram says:

Hi Blaise

Nice writeup. I’d like to know what you think of the accusations against Led Zeppelin as regards plagiarism and infringement. I don’t think their reputation suffered even after it was proven that they had actually passed off otehrs’ songs without giving them credit (Willie Dixon being a notable example). Sometimes suing is necessary to tell the world how original or ethical a band is.

stephen says:

Re: rip off

music is bound to be repeated and i think the reason for joe suing them is not just a musical one. Joe a man who has spent his whole life mastering music writes a song, and another band takes credit for it and makes a lot of money with it. That would be kind of upsetting. Its like they made money off his talented. Take this as an example if i rewrite the harry potter series with my own twist no ones going to say he was trying to steal her books, but if i take a relative unknown series and do the same thing which in the process i make tons of money, some people are going to be pissed. when it comes to borrowing music its kinda like knowing what stuff you can and can’t borrow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some people need to grow up

And this is why the hippies think music should be free. Hell, musicians like music. They like LISTENING to music. They like PLAYING music. Music is their life, supposedly. I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a musician alive that has never “borrowed” a riff or anything without even realizing it.

ScoLgo says:

This is why copyright laws are lame

If copyright law wasn’t so far out of whack, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Fact is there are only 12 notes in music & with the proliferation of ‘talent’, (and I use the word loosely with regards to Coldplay), there’s bound to be some overlap.

Think about this; when you create something for your employer, do you keep getting paid for that work for the rest of your life, (plus ~50 years)? Probably not. Instead, you have to get up tomorrow and create something again in order to get paid.

Why is creating music, books, movies, etc. so different? Because corps have bought those laws from Congress so they can rent our culture back to us in little pieces in perpetuity.

It’s a completely ridiculous system.

PrimitiveLyric says:

Re: This is why copyright laws are lame

You make a good point: there are only 12 notes in the western scale, however it is what you do with those notes that makes it original. Think about all the different types of western music that incorporate those 12 notes and how much of it sounds similar like in this context? Not much (I’m not talking about songs like Barry Manilow taking classical tunes and putting them to seventies stylings).

If we didn’t have copyright laws, we would probably have much more music which sounds similar.

TempoMental says:

Re: This is why copyright laws are lame

ScoLgo,

Though you make a sound point, I don’t think that your analogy applies. Music, books, movies, etc. differ in the aspect of originality. A musician/author/screenwriter take their experience and talents and make something of their own and sell it as ‘art’. Whereas the regular-Joe employee applies his services the same way the next guy would.

If you invented something wouldn’t you want the sole right to manufacture that product? The same goes for musicians. And this seems like a blatant case of plagiarism.

ScoLgo says:

Re: Re: This is why copyright laws are lame

TempoMental,
Thanks for the insightful reply. Yes, I would like to reserve that right – but only for a ‘reasonable’ time-frame. I happen to think that the life of the author plus 50 years or so is waaaayyyy too long.

I believe the original copyright laws had it set at around 15 years, (I’m not sure of the exact number, but it was much more reasonable than what it has since become). At that, it did a nice job of fulfilling the intent; to allow an artist to create a non-physical product and make a living off it until they created their next work. It also fulfilled another purpose by enriching human culture by releasing those works into the public domain within a fair span of time.

As far as plagiarism goes, all music in the world derives from other music. I’ve been a musician for most of my life and I can tell you for a fact that we are all the product of our influences. Sure, you can come up with an infinite number of variations on those 12 notes I mentioned, but there is literally nothing new under the sun. It’s mostly /slight/ variations on the same themes.

I have not listened to these two recordings so I don’t have an opinion on whether or not Coldplay ripped off Satriani directly. My point is this: If copyright laws were logical, we probably wouldn’t need to have this discussion, (as fun as it can be to debate these things).

Cheers!

Mycroft (user link) says:

Coldplay Satriani Controversy

I think the best settlement is for Coldplay and Joe Satriani to join forces, tour together, record together and show a completely alternate solution to lawyering up.
They should agent up. The coolest thing would be for Coldplay to admit that Joe must have influenced them at some level. They should have Coldplay do their thing, then have Joe Satriani rise up out of the floor of the stage playing his guitar solo. I bet the place would go nuts. Why make the lawyers rich, enrich the world of creativity!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Coldplay Satriani Controversy

You’re a big man to be using Rolling Stone as a reference point for some “Chicken foot” silliness. While you fight over bullshit like this, other bands are being discovered to take your place.

Thanks for the info on what’s important in your mind. I’ll stick with what’s important in my audience’s mind.

Gil Gamesh says:

A couple years ago I attended a classical concert titled ‘Pirates of the Baroque’ in which the orchestra played movements from Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Telemann, and the conductor explained how they were all ripping each other’s melodies and progressions off. It was interesting, because the plagiarism was evident, but at the same time each composer made the music really their own. Additionally, it wasn’t regarded at the time as a really negative thing, it’s just building on others ideas for inspiration.
I’m a big Satch fan. I’ve been to more of his concerts than I can remember, and I suspect the Coldplay melody is a ripoff. But I’d also say it’s an overreaction on Joe’s part. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Gil Gasuckmyballs says:

Re:

Also, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Telemann didn’t live in a world with iTunes, the Grammys, Youtube, copyright law, etc. I’d say that’s kind of an important little detail. And if everyone steals from everyone else, why is THIS particular instance being blown so wildly out of proportion?

And don’t try and pass off that bullshit about Joe Satriani overreacting. He tried to settle the matter outside of court, and Coldplay completely blew him off.

Finally, it was nowhere near “building on others’ ideas for inspiration.” Coldplay’s version of the song has the same melody and chord progression, and has the same groove to it. All they did was add lyrics and gayness.

To recap: You are a douchebag.

anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re:

as a response to you i just wanna say you must be mentally retarted. viva la vida wasnt the most amazing song in the world, but joe’s song is just gay. i listened to it twice and both times i REALLY listened to the words. they have no meaning. and no matter how many comments are posted that will not change. everyone can argue forever and ever but the fact that the song “if i could fly” sucks bigtime WILL NOT CHANGE.
Get over it. move on in life!

stephen says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

it doesn’t have lyrics are you retarded. First off it sucks is a opinion trying to pass it off as a fact not only makes you seem like a moron it also show you don’t have any ablitiy to be non biased. Also if you are not a mucisican on a high enough level to understand how music works you can not really claim you opionion is worth anything more then a pile of shit. But seriously did you listen to the song or are you just trolling buecuase it doesn’t have a single word in it. Maybe you were listening to the coldplay song that would explain why you said this song blows.

David (user link) says:

Robert Heinlein

I think that’s how you spell it – the science fiction writer; he wrote a futuristic (?) short story called “Melancholoy Elephants” in which every musical melody had already been done, and there was nothing left to copyright. I suspect this is somewhat the case here. It appears there is something in Coldplay’s favor, in that the lyrics (which are presumably Coldplay’s) are written so that there is lyrical rhythm (to the syllable) to match the melody – which Satriani’s version lacks. It’s certainly difficult to imagine anyone in Coldplay going, “Hey guys, let’s rip off Satriani.” I don’t see it – and if I’m not mistaken, Coldplay’s expression does come off as genuine.

LMFAOSchwarz (user link) says:

Gettin' Cold Played

They should change their name to Cold Pwn’d. To rob the wandering musical bard, Satriani, is just plain criminal. What’s next is Guitar Hero going to rip him off. I am writing my congressman to introduce legislation for the original thought police: any two people found to have the same idea must duel to the death. We’ve got to start controlling the world’s population sometime. Plus then maybe Nicole Kidman would be single again and the tabloids could use the fodder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Because this situation is likely governed by the “Fair Use” rules of copyright law, it is difficult without more information to form an opinion concerning this matter. Certainly the similarity of the two works is striking, but the test under law concerning what is and what is not deemed an infringement does not admit to a comparison of merely musical snippets.

That said, I see no useful purpose served by turning this into a contest of wills before a court of law. In many instances the extension and acceptance of an apology, together with proper credit, is all that is needed to lay an issue to rest. To the band: fess up, apologize, and give fair credit. To the guitarist: graciously accept, license its use after the fact without groveling for royalties.

Life is too short to suit up for battle every time a situation like this arises. Time is better spent creating music for sale to music fans.

Ajax says:

Re: Coldplay Satriani Controversy

Your “can’t we all just get along” approach to the Coldpaly Satriani controversy is an all to typical solution for all those who never have any skin in the game. The value of an atisits creation is gauged by those elements that make it unique. The specialness and appeal of those unique elements are what distinguish a remarkable work from an unremarkable one. By stealing Satriani’s unique elements Coldpaly dilutes the value of his remarkable work to enrich thier own unremarkable work. Satriani as not only a right but a reposiblity to protect his unique and valuable music from bands like Coldpaly who admit to plagirism for thier own benifit.

Paul says:

Dumb Question:

How few notes make a cord? a melody? a basic music progression?

IF the law suit goes to Joe Satriani then create a vary clear problem. (follow me on this one)

1.There are only so many cords that can be made, espically set to a specific rhythm.
2.Given 1, only some of those will sound good
3.Given 1 and 2, we have proven there is only a finite set of melodys that can be made that 1, use a specific rhythm, and set of notes and sounds good.

Solution: the fight is over a basic building block of music and cant be illegal for the same reason a 3 note block cant be illegal, its to basic.

Otherwise I would write a computer program to generate all possable melodys, write a song for each of them (or have a computer generate one for me) and then sue all new musical talent that comes after me because thay used something I made first.

Wow!
Step 1: generate all possable melodys
step 2: write bad songs for all of them
step 3: Sue all new songs for using my melody
step 4: profit!

God I hope someone tells the judge this.

K.M. Ensign says:

Re: Re:

3 noted make a chord, they are usually the 1st, 3rd, or 5th intervals, with extensions

a melody is heard over the chords. it is usually in a higher register than the chords. think of a piano, the player plays the chords with their left hand (lower) and the melody with their right hand (higher)

chord progressions are based off a key, but there are chord substitutions and key modulations that make it more complex. for the key of C major, think of the white keys on the piano, from C think of the notes as numbers:
c=1
d=2
e=3
f=4
g=5
a=6
b=7
c=8/1

so a typical progression used by at least 10 million songs: 6-2-5-1. many jazz standards are based off this progression in some way. In this case, it translates to the chords: A minor, d minor, g/g7, C.

keys are interchangeable. move it all up a half-step and you get the key of D flat. Move it all down a half-step, you get the key of B.

make sense?

Phil says:

Re: Finite number of melodies?

Lucky for us that’s completely wrong.

Take just sequence 3 different notes (1-2-3) and you can play dozen of variations. Tempo, rhythm, pauses, articulation, dynamics… emotion, message.

Then include lyrics, chord progressions, arrangement, tonality, different instruments.

Only this gives you endless possibilities.

Then try to play twice second note (1-2-2-3)….

Ben says:

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned that the chord progressions are not in fact the same. Somewhat similar, yes, but they are in fact not the same. They’re not even in the same key.

And for crying out loud, Viva La Vida has been altered in this video to fit with If I Could Fly. The song’s playback speed is being modified so that the two line up. That makes for a great mashup, but a poor justification for a lawsuit.

In either case, this lawsuit is a waste of time and should fail under any rational consideration. We’re talking about 3/4 of a similar chord progression and most of a melody that happen to fit if you change key and manipulate your tempo. Even if Coldplay outright admits that they simply lifted the melody, Viva La Vida is significantly (and that’s an understatement!) different from If I Could Fly that it would have absolutely no problem passing under fair use. Viva La Vida has been in heavy airplay for 6 months and this is the first time anyone has even noticed this. That fact alone is evidence enough that they are sufficiently dissimilar.

Mg says:

Re: Re:

dude you failed! the chord progressions are exactly the same except that one first chord and it’s an diatonic substitution which means it gives the same emotionall effect. The key can be change and whatever, it’s perfectly normal to change keys even chuck berry changes his own key to C instead of B minor or something like that while playing live. The key has nothing to do with the song really. The tempo are actually exactly the same though. So what we got is, same tempo, same meter, same chord progressions, and even his singing fits the lead guitar.

Daniel Astor says:

Coldplay vs Joe S My sweet lord..He' so fine?

Yes !! The same Melody…..But..
Being an old washed up studio/club guitar player,
” A fifty three year old working for FedEx now”
I will still always cop, nick a chop or two, Or swipe a lick from one of the greats. Jimi – Beck – Clapton.
As any real player will tell you, It’s what you do with it. your timing and feel. You personally dig and feel the melody, and it sticks, in your head.
Somewhere in you Soul.
If you can expound upon it, well then F-it. It’s new it’s
yours and It’s Good!!

Do it! Make it your’s
If it makes you feel good when you are playing it right
In hopes that the un-inisheated (SP) will be hearing it and listing, Then your work in is done.

And hopefully others will dig it.

In this case, I feel this is an unintentional nick.
I feel sorry for Coldplay. “By the way, Not a big fan but I know they are an amazing and very tight band”

If you were to ask Coldplay’s guitar player, I if he knew of, or heard of Mr.Satriani.
He would say Yes!

Ask him if he ever heard Joe Satriani’s Tracks.
Chances he would say “Yes”

Unintentional? I say Maybe.
I think that he was turning others onto to the melody that inspired Him and by in hopes that “you ” the listener, would catch a vibe or catch a feel.

I hear the same notes in the same key.
The Same song?? … No….
The same four bars and notes? Yes!!
You be the judge.
Diz Astor

Ben says:

So Coldplay copied Satriani’s If I Could Fly. Or Pounding from Doves. Or it’s Alizee with J’en Ai Marre. Or Creaky Boards. Or Frances Limon by Enanitos Verdes.

So now we have 5 different songs in 5 different styles and 3 different languages that various people across the internet are claiming Coldplay copied from.

I swear to God, Zappa was right. The universe is filled to the brim with stupid.

stephen says:

Re: Re:

to defend joe 1 first off he tried to settle this out of court and coldplay kinda just blew him off, he actually had to wait til they came to the grammy to have his lawyer serve them the subpeona, (i think they were going to do it live at the grammies so coldplay accepted before then to avoid what would have been public embarrisment). 2 i think joe’s problem is that they are winning a grammy off his music more then it is they are using his music.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Coldplay and Joe Satriani all have a similar melody over a similar chord sequence

To support your point, I did some lead guitar session work for a friend back in the early 90s. He gave me copies of the tracks he had already laid down without guitar solos and I came up with guitar solos for them.

I went down to record them in the studio. At one point he got all geeked about the melody I chose for a solo because it was nearly the exact same one he attempted to do earlier. He had recorded it earlier so he played it back for me and he was right; we had independently came up with nearly the same guitar melody over the same chord progression.

MT (user link) says:

Coldplay copying Satriani

Blaise, excellent note. I’m writing this as a mild fan of Coldplay’s music.

There are good reasons why I am not a copyright lawyer and this is one of them. There’s not enough space to list the other 1934 reasons. There are only so many notes and times for the notes, but that said, there can be so many combination of it all. Yet, I’ve read in some good book I have some musician once said he could reduce all the melodies in the world into 7. That said, I’m not sure I’d buy into either extremes, and technical legalities that I’m not well informed about aside (whether by law or psychology to allow for subconscious lifting or songs to prove guilt or whatever), I can only go with my intuition.

In this case, my intuition tells me whether Coldplay copied Joe or not, they should admit to the melody being the same and sort it out, and better yet, should have done so before it got into the court system cause if I were the judge, I’d rule with Joe. It is way too close to ignore, practically note for note, and would be note for note if Joe weren’t such a talented guitarist to slip in more that Chris couldn’t slip in so many words to a lyric. Joe’s music is out there, niche audience or not, and I would factor this in because of the likelihood of having been heard rather than a random accidental occurrence of coincidence. And he had the material public before Coldplay is easy to prove, too.

To me, with melodies this similar, and likely having been heard, intent to copy or not amounts to a difference between murder and manslaughter.

Oh, and while we’re on copying, Linda Rondstadt and James Ingram copied Beethoven’s Pathetique Piano Sonata No. 8, middle movement, for their American Tale hit, Somewhere Out There. Coldplay would be better advised to rip off dead people whose music is in the public domain now. I’ve heard somewhere out there that Beethoven, Mozart et al, have written lots of great melodies. ๐Ÿ™‚

Dave says:

Good story

That’s thought-provoking, thanks. I’m a guitarist and musician, and we do borrow from each other. I’ve thrown stuff out that I wrote because it sounded like something else, not because I thought I would be sued, but because I felt like I was pilfering. Yet, it is true that things can be borrowed without being aware that you’re doing so.

As to chord progressions alone, plagiarism really isn’t usually there. If you attributed the 12-bar blues progression to one person, then 95% of blues tunes are plagiarized. When the melodies and harmony are similar, then you can make a case, as in this one.

Ironically, I’ve always thought that Joe’s playing was very good, but that his tunes sound like beer commercial background music – fairly lightweight, somewhat trite progressions and melodies.

When you put these tunes side by side, there is a noticeable resemblance. It’s close, but in this case I still think I would vote against Joe – his chord progression and melody aren’t quite singular enough, whereas if his tune had some unique twists and turns, and Coldplay had copped that, Joe may have won hands down.

But if the writers of She’s So Fine can win vs. My Sweet Lord, I’m thinking the courts could side with Joe, but only if he can afford the fancy legal representation. The one with the most money generally wins, and Coldplay has deep pockets, I would assume.

tk says:

Infinity

Ok so, I don’t know if you guys are kidding or not, but there are LITERALLY infinite musical varieties. 7 notes and all their variations (sharp,flat, etc.) x audible octaves x rhythm or timing x style. Style by the way is subjective and as varied as each person’s fingerprint. You can’t really calculate this equation by the way, basically equally an infinite integer.

Style though is where we come into this situation. In the video posted on Youtube, they overlaid the longs, and rhythm was identical. leaving only the notes (identical) and the octave (can’t tell), which sound similar to my very untrained ear. Looks pretty cut-and-dry to me!

cram says:

Hi Blaise

Yeah long time no chat…have been fighting my duels here with Mike and DanC, though:-)

Unless you’re ripping off an entire song, it becomes difficult to determine whether someone’s ripping off someone else, and to what extent. As has been pointed out, a great many blues numbers resemble each other so much, one wonders if the genre would have evolved so much in a litigious environment.

I think both parties should have just met up and sorted out issues and kept the lawyers out.

MG says:

satrianis a whiner

I think Mr. Satriani is one of the greatest well rounded guitarist of all time but it sounds to me like he is reaching for the stars here yes both songs do sound exactly alike!!!! but in this day and age where there are so many talented muscian in the world the odds must be very high that once and a while one muscian or another is going to hit upon the same chordal movements and rythyms in an approximation to the other. So instead of creating more turmoil and legal bullshit why not try and be a civilized human being and figure out some way to let everyone enjoy both muscians music!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alex Hagen says:

One problem

This lawsuit suffers from one bad presumption: it presumes that anyone actually listens to Satriani. Few people listened to him in the 80s, and calling him a has-been now would be charitable since he was actually kind of a never-was. The chances of anyone from Coldplay or Creaky Boards ever hearing this song are bordering on zero.

Ky says:

Re: One problem

If you have seen a live Satriani show in the past 8 years or a G3 performance, it’s hard to believe you could refer to him as a has-been.

Given his stellar releases of Engines of Creation, Strange Beautiful Music, Is There Love in Space?, Super Colossal, and Prof. Satch albums post-dating the year 2000, this claim seems empty. Some of his best EVER work has been released since the turn of the century, and his fan base is growing, not declining.

Any guitarist knows Joe Satriani, including the underutilized guitarist in Coldplay. To claim that musicians don’t know who Joe Satriani is ludicrous, the guy is a legend, and a compositional genius.

Ky says:

Fame

“The difference is that the Creaky Boards didn’t sue. They made a cheeky video and used the opportunity to get some attention (also, later retracting the statement after Coldplay refuted it).”

Satriani isn’t in it for the fame. His music is his passion and his fans are hardcore. This is clear plagarism and Coldplay should pay out the ass. The funny part is their several Grammy nominations for this album are headed by this rip-off…it’s disgusting.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Fame

This is clear plagarism and Coldplay should pay out the ass.

How can you say it’s “clear plagiarism?” From everything that’s been pointed out here, it seems quite unlikely that it’s plagiarism.

The funny part is their several Grammy nominations for this album are headed by this rip-off…it’s disgusting.

Why it is either funny or disgusting? Even if we granted your highly questionable premise that this song is a copy, then shouldn’t you be happy that it’s about to get Satriani a lot more attention? Perhaps Coldplay just helped promote Satriani to a new audience?

Kathleen Williamson (user link) says:

copyright and unconscious plagiarism

This is not unlike George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and the Dixie Cup’s “He’s So Fine.” There, the court did find infringement, though unintentional by Harrison. I think today the court might rule differently. It is very subjective. Harrison’s case also dealt with three basic notes as the melody hook. Like Satriani’s case, basically, the notes under the hook of both songs were the same. The treatments of the two songs were also very different, not unlike here where one has lyrics and the other is instrumental. Harrison’s was a 70’s hare krishna rock spiritual and the Dixie Cups was a doodlang doodlang doodang 50’s hairspray heterosexist chick 45rpm. I bet today you’ll find lots of songs with these three notes as the hook in Coldplay/Satriani. The case will probably settle simply because its cheaper to do so than to litigate the question and it’s really a gamble as to who will prevail.
that’s my two cents.
disclaimer: lawyers are like bookies – on our best day we can only give you about 80% odds.
Kathleen

Anonymous Coward says:

This is clear plagarism and Coldplay should pay out the ass.

How can you say it’s “clear plagiarism?” From everything that’s been pointed out here, it seems quite unlikely that it’s plagiarism.

The funny part is their several Grammy nominations for this album are headed by this rip-off…it’s disgusting.

Why it is either funny or disgusting? Even if we granted your highly questionable premise that this song is a copy, then shouldn’t you be happy that it’s about to get Satriani a lot more attention? Perhaps Coldplay just helped promote Satriani to a new audience?

…That was my point. For Satch, I don’t think it’s about being promoted to a new audience, I think it’s about the feeling of having something stolen from him. It’s easy to pick out and point out differences among the two, but when you take the most notable portions of the songs, they are overwhelmingly similar. You’re avoiding the principle of the matter.

Keyz says:

Cat Stevens' Love / Heaven

Just found this on another page discussing the same issue:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=uUXda-RTE_c
Listen from about 3:18 onward.

If Coldplay copied Satriani… then Satriani just as likely copied Cat Stevens. Or Colplay heard Cat Stevens and wasn’t aware of Satriani’s melody, which in turn is Cat Stevens’ melody (who obviously wrote it first… 1973). Or much more likely – they all came up with the same thing. I’ve been a musician for about 20 years, have a degree in music, and am absolutely certain I’ve played a variety of similar melodies to this too while improvising. A chord progression often suggests “the right notes” to go along with it, even more so when paired with rhythm. Also sometimes you hear the overtones suggest additional notes that aren’t actually being played, which leads to a melody or harmony part. Sometimes while just messing around with a chord progression someone walks by and asks me, hey are you playing “insert song name here”… and I say, no – I was just playing some random chords. Randomly played rhythms can occur in the same way.

In any key the Coldplay song is essentially… IVmaj V7 Imaj IIImin. Hmm same as about 80% or more of all modern music. The melody note starts on the major 7th, a nice common place to start. If you simply started by playing IVmaj7 in root position, then to a simple triad on V7, then to a rootless Imaj9 (simple and common), then move the bass note up to the minor third under the same chord…. throw in a bit of basic syncopated 8th note rhythm while you do it… whoops you just accidently played the chords AND the majority of the melody of “Viva La Vida”… er I mean “If I Could Fly”…. wait no… “Love / Heaven”… drat!

I enjoy aspects of both Joe’s and Colplay’s music. I think it’s too bad that Joe has decided to make an issue of this (especially in light of Cat Stevens obviously recording it far before Joe did). I think the existence of the Cat Stevens song is actually going to backfire on Joe and put him in the spot he thought he was putting Coldplay. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know if someone quoted a portion of one of my songs (which are in a number of films) I would be pleased to see the new interesting things that evolved from that musical idea. I’d be proud that a bit of my music had inspired and spun off into new interesting directions. If someone were to steal my whole song and called it their own, then sure I’d be upset about that, but this isn’t even in the same ballpark. Though a complete song may be my property and my livelihood, music itself isn’t my own – it’s a gift that I have the honor of sharing.

Keyz says:

Re: Cat Stevens' Love / Heaven - forgot one thing

Forgot to mention…

One additional potential angle:

It’s possible that Coldplay was completely aware of Satriani’s melody and blatantly drew inspiration from it (though still making a clearly new and unique song, one worth writing), doing so only because they also were completely aware (given this scenario) that Satriani’s melody was clearly inspired by Cat Stevens’ melody (and they may have assumed that Joe was aware of this too, since it’s instantly obvious given even the most brief listening). They therefore may have believed that Joe would not have any problem with them deriving clear inspiration from BOTH his and Cat Stevens’ melody, continuing on the line of creative development of the same melodic idea. If this scenario is correct though, clearly Joe was not as “in” on the inside creative joke as Coldplay assumed he was.

Mojo Bone says:

“Honesty” isn’t really even close, the Satch/Coldplay melody is a descending melody line, the “Honesty” hook is ascending. I believe Joe has a pretty good case, but I expect this’ll be settled before it gets to a jury.

There are thousands upon thousands of potential melodies even given a limited number of notes, once you factor in rhythm and repetition, but it’s also true that in a given key, there are only so many things one can play that sound good, feel good and are easily executed while leaping about the stage like a drunken dervish.This is why we have cliches.

This sort of thing gets people talking about music, introduces Coldplay and Satriani fans to each other, serves as free publicity for both, and I think that’s a good result, regardless of the outcome of any lawsuit.

manstein says:

Even coincidences are copy right infringements. This case need not be about outright theft, though to most that would be the implication. There simply was an original work already copyrighted and coldplay’s version is not sufficiently different from that original work. My opinion? coldplays’s writers were aware of Satriani’s song and, at best, were influenced by it to say the least.

Easily Amused says:

re: #55/56

Bravo Keyz!

I have been a musician of some sort since I was 8yrs old, and while I have never devoted the time and energy needed to make a career out of it, this is the attitude that every artist should exemplify. It is the height of arrogance to think that a melody you create is truly a unique little snowflake that the world has never heard before. It’s not coincidence that that major chord progressions tend to sound ‘happy’ and minor ones tend to sound ‘sad’. The frequencies involved can evoke a basic emotion without lyrics, or the context of a movie screen, etc. Other cultures that have wildly different structures to their ancestral music, completely removed from the family tree of western musicality, will occasionally reproduce a melody that is identical to a modern pop song.

It’s how you shape and color that melody to make it your own that matters. I don’t listen to Satriani much, it’s not my personal taste, but I recognize his virtuosity and hope that he continues expressing his amazing talent. Coldplay catches a lot of criticism from “real musicians” who think their work is derivative at best, but some of their songs at least are very imaginative and I do enjoy listening to them from time to time.

I hope this mess brings a few new fans to Satriani that have never been exposed to him, and I hope that both parties can tell the lawyers to STFU and come to a reasonable arrangement that massages the bruised egos and gets them back in the studio to create more music.

kat says:

come on, really....

I am a huge coldplay fan, and I think that its really sad that now people are picking on them because of something they very well may have done unintentionally! Satriani is looking for attention and is probably just jealous. I won’t deny that the songs sound similar, but you people are acting like Satrini is Queen and Coldplay are Vanilla Ice!! How would you people feel if this was you being written about so horribly? I think that with the exception of a few people who posted here, you people are all to stupid to decipher the meanings behind their songs. That is very sad, and doubly because there are all these people that “have always hated them” but probably have never heard of them. I say tho leave coldplay alone, and come on, really…be mature about this!

EP from Songzilla (user link) says:

Sum of the Parts works better than division of the booty

beware the “muse” in music

If you ask creative people where their ideas come from, I bet in many cases they are not entirely sure. Perhaps you hear Joe Satriani playing in the background when you are out somewhere and it seeps into your subconscious. A month later you are in the studio, someone plays a simple set of chords, the sames chords Joe played over, and you start singing the Satriani melody. Standing on the shoulders of others applies beyond science.

As far as guitarists, most, perhaps Joe Satriani excepted, steal 80% from other guitarists, in fact they teach each other their riffs.

So how purely original is anyone’s music?

That said, these sound a bit too close, so I think they ought to work something out based on:

— Joe Satriani’s melody is nice, but not rocket science or groundbreaking
— Coldplay is basically using the Joe Satriani melody
— They play different styles of music & appeal to two different audiences, so a sale of Cold Play’s song does not preclude a sale of Joe Satriani’s song
— Coldplay has a better ability to monetize the melody

What should they do? Use this controversy to promote the hell out of both songs (both are good IMO). Maybe stage “song fight” appearances together. Maybe record a version together. Work out a deal where Joe gets something out of the Coldplay song.

But not all profits, that’s silly. Most of Coldplay’s profits (but in this case maybe not 100%) are the direct result of what Coldplay does so well: play and market their music in a way that connects with a large audience.

Frankly, I have neither track, but would like to have both now. Joe Satriani just might pick up some sales of his music from this publicity.

Ferrum Mann says:

Too close to call

I’m with Keyz. The progression is a most common one. You can find hundreds if not thousands of recorded songs although pitched and timed differently are basically the same. You can use software to confirm this.

What is left to prove is that Coldplay intentionally copied Satch’s piece. But listening ALONE to the song superimpressed on the other would not help Joe’s case. Its borderline and could go either way.

Unlike Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want a New Drug” vs. Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”.

Rob B. says:

Two things to prove...

Satch has to prove two things:

1. The songs need to be similar… and yes, they do share similar main themes.

2. Coldplay has to have the means in which to intentionally plagiarize — they have to have HEARD this song at one time or another. Who else has heard this song before? Certainly not me, and I actually WAS a Satch fan at one point.

George Harrison got sued by the Chiffons for My Sweet Lord / He’s So Fine because that was a major hit song. George himself admitted that he had heard the song at least in passing. Busted.

This is not necessarily the case with Coldplay. Have they heard of Satch, maybe. Have they heard this song? Not unless they own the album. Satch doesn’t really put out singles (besides “Summer Song”). Bottom line, unless they can prove that a songwriter in the band is a Satriani fan, they’re not going to win the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Poking holes in an already empty balloon

There is only one way to stop Coldplay’s arrogance, and that’s with Joe Satriani’s arrogance.

Who will win?
Well, if these guys decide to let it continue through court, I hope they realize long term effects are a horrible, and neither will win. (Read: Yes Joe, I hope your financial guy looked at all the profits from this single song, and have someone sign off that they will take care of you for the next 30 years, because being known as a “bully” travels fast throughout your industry.)

Taking this position is lethal. Will anyone work with you again? Think about Metallica. It’s been almost a decade since they filed their last lawsuit, and to this day, there’s diehard fans who still won’t buy their work.

So telling everyone who listens to Coldplay albums to go fuck themselves isn’t a way to enhance your brand or name.

Joe:
Quite simply, you listened and took advice from the wrong person. Why not call up Coldplay’s manager and see if you can work with them.

alan says:

the safest course of action for any band in today’s legal climate is to write only tunes that are variations of melodies from pre-modern copyright times. The Baroque era in particular is a wellspring of beautiful musical ideas. So anytime some starving Satriani sues your successful band, you can always go to court and state, ‘we didn’t copy Satch, we copied Bach, so mmpphhh to ya’.

Tomas Vrana (user link) says:

Joe's totally out and his music should be deeply sued for any aparent plagiarism

This is embarrassing. I’d bet Joe just dislikes the way it sounds when played by Coldplay. There’s so many guy’s that let the others to milk their stuff. I hope Joe will get kicked off because since he’s right to get any compensations, there’s a monster underground and everyone is got to watch damn out to what inspires them.
There’s just a lot of stuff that shares similar elements and there can’t be exact matrix to perfectly define what’s significant.
If anyone finds whatever familiar in Joe’s music, please sue him!!))

PrimitiveLyric says:

Satch has good grounds

Legally, I would say Satch as pretty good grounds to win as it definately is the same tempo, same chord progression, same basic melody. Satch embellishes the melody, of course, but they share the exact same basic melody.

Now whether or not the songwriter actually heard Satch’s tune in the past, who knows, but if he did, it would probably be something that his subconscious picked up on and I doubt he went out to say “let’s rip off Satch and put words to one of his tunes.”

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Keyz says:

The key and tempo of both songs are adjusted to match up in the video

To those who are mentioning that “the key and tempo of the songs are identical”… they are NOT actually identical but have been modified to fit together in the video. Please listen to each actual song individually (if you don’t have them, check the previews on iTunes or other music stores which both have the relevant parts of the music)… they are at different tempos and in different keys: the real key of “Viva La Vida” is Ab, and is at about 140 bmp, and the real “If I Could Fly” is in the key of D at about 130 bpm. The key of Ab is “roughly” as far away from the key of D as you can get. The tempo of both are in the same range as almost every other mildly upbeat song. I don’t have time to outline in detail but there are also substantial other differences that anyone trained in music theory and composing could pick out.

The creator of this video used software to superimpose them together and change the tempo/keys to match each other (this is very easy to do with most music production software). My personal favorite (in case anyone might find it useful for learning songs) is Amazing Slow Downer, which unlike slowing down or speeding up a tape, is capable of changing tempo without adjusting pitch, or pitch without adjusting tempo. In the video, “Viva La Vida” has been shifted up a half step to the key of D instead of Db, and also seemed to be slowed down by at least 3-4 bpm (subtle, but makes it easier to make both songs meet in the middle). “If I Could Fly” is transposed all the way down to the key of A, a 4th interval below the original key of D. Now, the chord progressions of the two songs are actually in different but complimentary keys, so they mesh together well. The tempo of “If I Could Fly” is sped up by 4 or so bpm, bringing both adjusted songs together. The melody of “If I Could Fly” now starts on the major 7th of the key of D (D is the tonal center of the mashup song), the same way as Coldplay’s song… however, “If I Could Fly” in the original key of D does NOT start on the major 7th. It starts on the major 3rd – and is therefore a COMPLETELY different melody, made up of an entirely different sequence of notes. That maj 7th – root – 6 or maj 3rd – 4 – 2 have a similar feel which is what catches your ear and is probably the strongest factor in making the songs sound similar.

Having listened more carefully today to the real recording of “If I Could Fly” rather than the video’s altered version, I’ve now realized that it is actually “not” the same chord progression either. “If I Could Fly” has the progression of IImin V7 Imaj IIImin, which is the absolutely most common progression of all time (makes up countless songs, especially jazz, used often in rock/pop, latin, and countless other styles). Coldplay’s first chord is clearly the simplified sound of the IVmaj rather than the IImin. The IImin V7 Imaj progression is actually not really even a progression that “someone came up with”… it is actually an integral part of one of the core elements of music theory, the Circle of 4ths / Circle of 5ths. Just playing chords in order around the circle, counter-clockwise (4ths), automatically creates this progression over and over in every key. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths

One other thing I’ve noted is that at least one other band has pointed this song out and said Coldplay copied them… which leads me to believe that this is just a melody that “had to happen” (also considering what I mentioned before about certainly having improvised similar melodies myself too over the years).

Anyhow, having worked out this music theory a bit, now I’m even more certain that Joe has very little case (if he had any at all in light of Cat Stevens’ song, “Love / Heaven … again, http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=uUXda-RTE_c at about 3:18). I’m sure among everything else, they will outline these same music theory details in court.

Anyhow, I hope my little music theory experiment has been helpful in shedding light on this (it was fun anyhow haha). Now, I’m going to go improvise for a while over some II-V-I voicings ๐Ÿ˜€

Keyz says:

Re: small correction... Ab to A not Db to D

Whoops just noticed an error right as I submitted, and couldn’t edit my post to correct it… in the second paragraph I wrote Db to D and meant to write Ab to A. This actually brings the two songs in the mashup from their original different keys, completely into the same key of A (“Viva La Vida” from Ab to A, and “If I Could Fly” all the way from D down to A, as mentioned).

Keyz says:

Re: Re: small correction... Ab to A not Db to D

Whew I need to go to bed haha (3 hrs sleep last night – bla). My earlier mistake brought me to the wrong conclusion that the songs have a different starting melody note. They actually do both begin on the 3rd of their respective key centers. Apologies. The rest of my points should still be accurate.

SteveD says:

Re: Joe Satriani and Cold Play

Now that would be awesome. Coldplay have a couple of December gigs coming up… Satriani should jump onto stage half way through the song and pull off a kickass guitar solo.

Sadly, I don’t think this is about artistic integrity. The albums been out for 6 months, and it can’t be coincidence that Satriani’s lawyers brought this up just before the grammy’s.

This might not even be anything to do with Satriani but those who own and control the rights to his work.

Dan says:

The fact of the matter is. There is sooo much music out there, that lines are going to get crossed in melodies to the point that where it will almost be impossible to make an original sounding composition. (inhales).

I think Joe needs to take a breath and realize that he’s not the only one, and won’t be the last. I mean has anyone listened to the new Airbourne album? It wreaks of Judas Priest and AC/DC but I don’t see them suing. It’s fun, it’s Rock and Roll, Get over it Joe.

Paul Brinker says:

Why are we fighting over a video thats been faked anyway, could we get an update that the posted video has been edited to make it sound the same?

If anything we should see how well the 2 song sheets match up. Because if we cant find a spot where the 2 melodys overlap (past a single note) or move up and down at the same time, then the whole thing should get tossed out as silly.

Why are we even doing this by sound in the first place?

Keyz says:

Joe Satriani + Cat Stevens...

I went ahead and quickly “mashed up” Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”, with Cat Stevens’ “Love / Heaven”, using the same kind of key and tempo adjustments that were used to merge Satriani’s and Coldplay’s songs.

It’s rough since I don’t want to spend hours on it and only have a small snippet of low quality audio to work with, not the whole songs, but it gets the point across.

Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”, merged with Cat Stevens’ “Love / Heaven”

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Joe Satriani + Cat Stevens...

I went ahead and quickly “mashed up” Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”, with Cat Stevens’ “Love / Heaven”, using the same kind of key and tempo adjustments that were used to merge Satriani’s and Coldplay’s songs.

Nice work! I wonder if the guys vehemently defending Satriani and yelling at Coldplay, will now do the same, defending Cat Stevens and yelling at Satriani?

Keyz says:

Another

Haha… found another, also predates Satriani’s song, 2002… about 35 seconds in:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G57CgtX-BsI

Sorry Satriani, this is going to turn sour for you if you stick with this argument. My brother and I have been having a grand time this evening flipping through songs and pointing out the same chord progression and passably similar melodies ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure the songs will keep piling up. I can imagine the court day… “Your honor, I’d like to present these 150 songs to the court” ๐Ÿ™‚

I agree… he should make some friendly appearances at Coldplay concerts, playing along with Viva La Vida. Hopefully it’s just the lawyers/label causing this mess and he can sweep up their mess.

Evan (profile) says:

I'm willing to bet...

…that the melody from Satriani’s song, that Coldplay allegedly copied, has been used before in another musician’s recording.

Hell, every story I’ve ever read has basically been a rehash of one of Shakespeare’s works.

Also – there’s a clip of a comedian out there somewhere who plays Pachelbel’s Canon on the guitar while singing almost every popular song from the past twenty years (I’m being hyperbolic) over the chord progression of Pachelbel’s original, and every single song he sings follows Canon in D Major’s chord progression.

The point I’m trying to make is – well, if you don’t see the point, then it’s already too late for you.

Paul Boshears (user link) says:

Doesn’t this simply show how insipid both musical acts are? But, to maybe contribute more positively; in the East Asian tradition, were an art work to enter a respected household or a dynasty it would be considered enriching the art work were the owner to place his official stamp upon said work. Thus the community and the work are both expanded; ownership is meaningless in this context and yet does not diminish the authoritativeness of the originator. We must find a similar sensibility.

crimsonkimono (user link) says:

lol

i thought they stole it from him before i even heard any of the creaky boards crap. it was funny i consider myself a pretty big fan of Joe and i was floored when i heard it. i thought where have i heard this melody before! and i looked up coldplay and saw the creaky boards crap and then remembered ah JOE SATRIANI! hes got a chance tho. the melody is eerily similar.. the rolling stones are well known for suing artists for similarities.. Led Zeppelin was sued for Whole Lotta love by page’s old band the Yardbirds.. Queen sued Vanilla Ice for the melody to Under Pressure so… its quite possible Joe will have a winner. it kinda sucks because i used to have a lot of respect for coldplay but i’ve found that a lot of their songs even songs i didnt pay much attention to before sound similar to other songs i have heard. such as Clocks… it reminds me of an older song Caviar & Champagne.. its old but this dutch guy Peter Van Wood.

MSahlgren (profile) says:

I think they both rip off The Descendents

That melody is SO simple I’m quite confident that Coldplay could beat the rap by easily finding a dozen or so other songs with the same or very similar melody. I’ll do it for them if they want to pay me.
Hmmm. I’d start with The Descendents, The Cure, OMD, TV’s Greatest Themes, and some Windham Hill new age crap and finish my search somewhere in Woody Guthrie territory.

Adam (profile) says:

Pachelbel

I saw musician/comedian Rob Paravonian do a song about Pachelbel’s Canon in D, in which he claimed that every musical genre did Pachelbel at some point. He played the chord progression on guitar, and sang a medley along with it that included: The Beatles, Bush, Green Day, The theme from the movie “The Legend of Billy Jack”, Blues Traveller, Aerosmith, Matchbox 20, Green Apple Quickstep, and U2. All completely different songs over the same chord progression. Would Dido be as big without Eminem’s sample of her song for “Stan”? Seriously we need to stop being so lawyer happy and get over ourselves! I hope Satriani loses big time!

Crusty Dwells says:

Coldplay/Satriani

In my opinion, it still seems reasonable that it is a coincidence. From start to finish, the songs are pretty different. I’m an old Satch fan, and only a recent Coldplay convert (REALLY disliked their first CD).

But what really bothers me is that, ever since I first heard Viva La Vida, I swear that the chorus (” I hear Jerusalem Bells a ringing…”) is similar to the chorus of a 1960’s US pop song with female vocals. I have wracked my brain to find the name of that song or remember the exact lyrics, but I am positive that the melody from that 60s song (stuck in my head) is similar to the VLV chorus. Does anyone else have a similar recollection??

SUMMERSONG says:

As stated by Joe, He tried to talk to Coldplay and their management. They would not even acknowledge him. And for those that think Coldplay’s guitarist has never heard of Joe, then wake up. Joe also states that this song was in the works for his wife Rubina since 1990. It took that long to complete it. Thats part of the reason he is pissed.
It was also mentioned that in a interveiw with Coldplay in 2004, they new who Joe Satriani was and had heard his music. That interveiw will be a key if it so happened.

Anonymous Coward says:

there is a ‘special olympics’ feel to this lawsuit… that satriani spent ten years “working” on this is beyond understanding. the melody is unoriginal. its empty, uninspired, lame and obvious. it’s like a writer suing another for starting his story with “It was a dark and stormy night.” its embarrassing.

but… if coldplay had commmented in an interview months ago that a section of the melody of their song was strikingly similar to many other songs this all probably would have been avoided. it’s simply a matter of pride or arrogence on their part. they would rather pay lawyers than admit the artistic bankruptcy that their critics accuse them of.

anonymous says:

its complete crap..

whats the point in fussing over a song that was written before coldplay was even a band? yes the song does sound similar to viva la vida but i honestly think joe is just doing this to get attention. notice that coldplay’s song earned a grammy and joe’s song didnt earn crap! personally i really dont have anything against joe ,but im with coldplay on this one.

Andrew says:

This is bullshit.

I don’t care what you all say. The verse from Viva la Vivda is completely stolen from If I Could Fly. Sure, the similarities may be minimal, but it contained almost the exact same chord change, same key, and same notes. To me, if an average listener can tell if the two sound the same, then it is plagirism. And don’t give me this bullshit about the fame and fortune the song made apparently making it better than anything that Joe Satriani can do. Hell, Lil’ Wayne is famous. Are you telling me that Lil’ Wayne is more talented than Joe Satriani? Fucking of course not. Popularity does NOT equal talent. But the point is that Joe Satriani was hurt by this blatant copy from his song, which was written for his wife and took over a decade to compose. Joe Satriani SHOULD win, but chances are he won’t, because the world has no more decency.

“joe’s song is just gay. i listened to it twice and both times i REALLY listened to the words. they have no meaning” You fucking piece of shit, there are no words to If I Could Fly. Stop being such a fanboy who doesn’t know anything about the matter at hand.

Halcyon says:

Accountability

Mr. Blaise, the songs are very similar, please dont ignore the obvious and ramble some rhetorical artist jargon. Sure, many artists are inspired by other artists- it’s a form of compliment. Pay tribute, give credit. It would have been totally cool had there been any mention of the original composer of that particular arrangement, even without monetary consideration involved. To deny it, and try to spin it off as harmless coincidence is to be expected from the guilty party, but not from a fair person. Not fair Mr. Blaise. Finally, to go No.1 with it and still … Hey these guys are truely Magical! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Wish they had redone La Vida Loca!

Unknown says:

Corrupt Musicians?! Now I've Seen Everything!

Hey Everybody! I’m gonna go home and write a song using nothing but the G chord… and if anyone EVER uses the G chord again… I’m going to sue them for plagirism… because thats the type of musician I am… I don’t care about music… I only care about money, and my rightful ownership of the G chord…

Isaac says:

Hi,

I teach music theory, guitar, bass, and piano.

The issue here, is when we look at notes at melodic notes in terms of harmonic positioning (4th, octave, etc.) against the chord progressions, we find that the Coldplay melody is more than eerily similar — same starting contours, ending contours, very similar rhythmic values, very same grooves.

It’s not just coincidence; do a music theory analysis and you will see it is a very blatant case of plagiarism.

GK says:

copyrights

There are a lot of misunderstandings about music theory and copyright law on here. I am in the music publishing business and my company deals with these issues on a regular basis.
To claim that proof of “copying” is required rather than a simple factual illustration of overt similarity to an existing, legally copyrighted work is simply not true.
When a work is copyrighted, it is in a condition of artistic and legal existence and any similarities which are overt can indeed infringe that copyright. Intent is not the issue in a case of infringement. The intervallic melody – and specifically the melody against those harmonies – was enough to seal the case against George Harrison, a case in which the judge even stated during closing that he did not believe Mr. Harrison consciously appropriated the 3-note melody in question, but that he had nevertheless used a melody which already belonged to someone else. The law hasn’t changed in any substantial way on this issue. The Maj7-Octave-6th (becoming 5th of the following chord) – or, for classical folk, leading note-tonic-submediant of the initial subdominant chord (becoming dominant of the dominant chord) – is probably enough to make this a simple case. The key or complete chord sequence is not the issue, it is the appearance of THOSE notes upon THOSE harmonies.
Access to the track is inherently proved by “Is There Love In Space” being on general release and therefore potentially accessible to anyone. Mr. Satriani’s lawyer’s will not need to prove Coldplay listened to his track, just that they conceivably were able to. After all, one cannot disprove beyond reasonable doubt that one was never aware of a work one could feasibly have been aware of.
Copyright law exists to allow artists, writers and composers fair recompense and recognition for their work. If the law allowed all to freely steal such intellectual and artistic properties without consequence, nobody would reasonably be able to build a career out of being a creative artist and the world would be a far poorer place for it. Nobody in ANY job would think it fair to see someone else achieve recognition and financial reward for a job they had actually done and an achievement that truly belonged to them. A composer’s compositions ARE their work. To claim that coyright law is “out of whack” is utterly ludicrous.

GK says:

It’s grasping at straws a bit to try to dig up any melodies that are at all reminiscent in any way as a form of “proof” of either Coldplay’s alleged originality or Satriani’s alleged unoriginality. Let Billy Joel comment on the matter, or better still, let him take that one to court, to those that KNOW copyright law. As proved in many cases, contextual melody is so often the chief issue, ie a set of intervallic movements against a particular harmonic motion. Thereby we draw the fine but fair line between inspiration and plagiarism, the vital distinction between insignificant and significant similarities. Or, to put it bluntly, “acceptable” and “too damn much”.
It doesn’t make a difference whether or not Coldplay deliberately copied; all that needs to be proved is that they had ACCESS to the track. And, since it was available in shops worldwide, that’s very easy to prove and very, very hard to deny. If they subconsciously heard it (and apparently it did have quite a bit of rock radio airplay at the time) then, yes, they thereby skipped part of the necessary creative process required for composing an original song. If they never did, it’s unfortunate for them, but there’s no way they can prove they didn’t hear something that they conceivably could have heard, and – purposely or inadvertently -they nevertheless utilized the fruits of someone else’s creative labours in their own work. Intention is usually far from being the deciding factor when copyright exists to preserve the right to not be copied.

Itai Spector says:

Ridiculous

If you go over youtube, you find some instresting things, like 4 other songs from all times that all are similar to this melody…
that simply proves, that satriani doesnt have a case, cuz if he does, he copied himself this melody…
look music has been around us for ages, u cant really expect that you wont hear the same chords or melodies sequence.. its impossible, there is so much musicians around the world, part of playing/making music is to take inspiration from all the things you like to hear, sometimes it involves with a few chords or melody moves… i mean come on during the history he had great bands, that must have taken something from others to bring it as they see it, i have to give some examples like The Beatles, most of Hip Hop/Rap music, Daft Punk, Justice – just a small portion.. but its unavoidable..
if u let me be the judge.. i definatly wouldnt let satraini win… id say to both of them make peace and go to ur ways..

Anthony says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Given that, musically, anything is possible”

I disagree. How many ‘pop’ songs, since this is the genre in question, use all 12 notes in the scale, let alone different octaves? A high percentage of the theoretical variations of the notes would be disgarded immediately, since they would not create any ‘melody’. Many notes are also retricted by the few chord changes that occur in pop songs.

If music was composed by simply picking notes, length of notes etc without hearing how they sounded then maybe Frank Behrens has a point, but that just isn’t how songs are written.

It is a bit like saying there is absolutely no chance of the same chess game/position arising twice, given that mathematically an astronomical number of variations exist (“The number of legal positions in chess is estimated to be between 10^43 and 10^50, with a game-tree complexity of approximately 10^123” Wikipedia), yet games/positions/themes arise again and again. This is because the vast majority variations of moves are disregarded because they are simply no good.

Obviously this is non-music related, but I think it is another good example of how mathematically possible and practically possible are completely different.

Do you think Coldplays lawyers would use Frank Behrens calculations/James Moody as a witness as part of their defense?

GK says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, the latter half of the James Moody quote is, “but we try.” He’s such a wonderful musician.
The point, initially, was that it’s just not true – and provable as such – to say that there are a limited number of possibilities for melodic invention. I don’t believe that to be the case at all and, of course, the math states unequivocally that there is a most considerable amount of possibilities.
I suppose, though, it might depend upon the composer’s sense of ambition and creativity. The great composers and musicians see possibilities where others might not. This is a part of why they are the greats. This certainly includes “pop” music.
Queen, for example, have had, in their time, many unusual melodies (in that they were very different from the “norm” and the “safe” options of the day) that were frowned upon by knee-jerk reactions from outsiders who told them that the public would never listen to such things. Which, of course, proved to be a fallacy. This is just one example of many that occur in merely the last half-century.
Sgt. Pepper’s, might I dare to suggest, would never have happened and subsequently never altered the way the general public perceives pop music had they not taken some bold chances and instead had merely stuck to what is tried-and-tested and what was proven, rejecting the rest as “no good”. They made melodic choices that would have been unthinkable in the ’50s. It is generally how new trails have been (no pun intended) “blazed”. If we look at the history of popular music itself, great turning points are almost always accompanied by unusual-for-the-time sets of melodic intervals.
Thankfully, in music and unlike in chess, it is impossible to lose, so there are no “fatal” choices.
In Brian Eno’s words, “you can crash and burn and walk away”. It really is a major and crucial difference between a game and an art.

As so many of the great composers in all styles have discovered and explored, the road less-traveled is loaded with musical joy. When put together skilfully, there is untold beauty in, say, the ethereal quality of the Lydian Mode, the winding darkness of the Hungarian Minor, the sunny depth of the Phrygian Dominant, the silvery flexibility of the Super Locrian et al.

The minor 6th interval, for instance, is often avoided melodically. And yet “Theme from Love Story” utilizes it brilliantly. Note, too, Bernstein’s deft use of the Major 7th and the Augmented 4th. A lesser composer may indeed have failed to explore these sounds, instead opting for the safe route in the belief that that’s what “works”. But a creative mind such as Bernstein’s reaches that bit further – for the good of us all.
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that the great American art-form of jazz could never have happened without a desire to explore further melodic motion than existed in its forefathers, the blues and military band music. I sincerely believe that the great Miles Davis would never have accepted the idea that some sounds are just “out of bounds”.
The calculations of Mr. Behrens illustrate that the claim that possibilites are finite is actually untrue. With cold hard fact. Whether or not you like a melody is more in issue of subjectivity. Some people hate the likes of Stockhausen and Cage and their use of the “tone-row” system, but not only can it be done, it was done.
Most great musicians and composers, as well as artists in other arts, have been told more than once by some doubting Thomas, “you can’t do that! It’ll never work!” In proving that attitude wrong, much great art has been created.

We also cannot afford to overlook the importance of style and genre. Medieval melodies undeniably differ in feel – even without taking into account the harmonic context – from Motown melodies. When a new musical genre comes into being, new melodic tendencies appear. Consider the history of the flattened fifth as an example. It is also the main difference between many indigenous musical forms throughout the world. Japanese note choices differ greatly from those of Cuba, but neither is more or less “right” or better or worse than the other. Just great illustrations of all the possibilities music offers.

It is not at all necessary to pick out pitches and durations without hearing them in order to explore the myriad of musical and pleasing possibilities and influences. A skilled composer can take this multitude of raw materials and create great art, as history has proved, and will prove, time and time again.

I really don’t think Coldplay’s lawyers would be the one that would wish to bring this issue into consideration! It may not be in the best interests of their clients to have a judge start considering just how many melodic options actually do exist.

GK says:

Latest News

The update, courtesy of CBC:

“Coldplay has denied copying portions of a song by American guitarist Joe Satriani for the band’s 2008 hit track Viva La Vida.

In a U.S. Federal Court filing in Los Angeles on Monday, lawyers representing the British rock band argued that any similarities between Viva La Vida and Satriani’s 2004 song If I Could Fly were not significant enough to warrant damages.

Satriani, a guitarist who has played with Mick Jagger, launched a lawsuit against Coldplay in Los Angeles in December, accusing the Grammy Award-winning British band of plagiarism.

Satriani is seeking a jury trial, and is calling for damages as well as “any and all profits” related to the alleged copyright infringement.

Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, Coldplay’s latest release, was 2008’s bestselling album, with sales of 6.8 million copies worldwide.

It was also a major winner at February’s Grammy Awards, with the track Viva la Vida picking up the coveted title of song of the year and the album named best rock album.

The band is currently on a world tour promoting the release.”

So it looks like it will go to trial, then.

alfred says:

i think the Grammy did shit. cold play got the Grammy but it wasn’t true. they wanted to show Joe Satriani silly. may be they didn’t copy Joe but its so similar. it happened so much to me i wrote a song then i hear my own somewhere. you may heard it before and it goes to your brain without you know and want. you cant remember it but when you want to write your self it comes down. the Grammy said that Joe your nothing. its a shit its not true. when Justin got the Grammy i know whats going on.

Joe forever

Bill in Buffalo says:

Plagiarism, please!

Joe Satriani, good as he is, has been robbing Eddie Van Halen all his life. He sounds just like him. Eddie was original. Joe has never been. Musicians adopt the ideas of those who played before. It’s been that way forever, so unless someone directly copies someone else’s work, filing suit is laughable as far as I’m concerned. It’s the same with comedians.

Clemmy (profile) says:

As a musician myself I must say yes there are only so many notes in a scale, 7 tones, 12 half tones to be exact( two notes B and E have no sharps for those of you who wonder how I can arrive at 12 doubling 7 )BUT and its a wide but here, using those you can create an incredible amount of different melodies because a melody isnt one single note but a wide array of notes and silences etc And frankly when you listen to both the pieces its way too close to be coincidence in my opinion. The one big point where I have a huge problem with COldplay and which has definitely convinced me to regard them as unworthy of ever listening to is the fact that they chose to ignore mr. Satriani when he brought it up, as a fellow artist he was at the very least entitled to RESPECT and a cordial and honest response from these guys and they just wanted to blow it off and blow HIM off. That is not acceptable and I will never support Coldplay or accept to even hear their music in the future, Mr. Satriani has been a huge inspiration to me and still is, and I find their attitude inapropriate. When a legend has worked so hard for so long creating masterpiece after masterpiece and he tells you he needs to talk to you about the piece you stole from him, the least you could do is listen and try to come to a mutal accomodation which Im sure is all Mr. Satriani asked for in the first place.

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