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.

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Comments on “Coldplay Denies Copying Satriani In Federal Court Filing”

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sir_flexalot (profile) says:

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.

ChimpBush McHitlerBurton says:

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.


Andy says:

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.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

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.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

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.

Digital Citizen (user link) says:

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.

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