Social Mores At Work: Sigur Ros Calls Out Commercials With 'Similar' Music

from the homage,-fromage dept

We’ve been talking about how social mores can awful be a lot more effective in dealing with “unauthorized copying,” rather than calling up the copyright lawyers. In discussing it, some people have wondered how those making copies get caught. Well, sometimes it just takes the person/band/company who had their stuff copied to call it out. Grillo points us to a news story about how the band Sigur Rós called out a bunch of advertisers for creating songs that are very, very, very similar to Sigur Rós tunes for commercials after being turned down by Sigur Rós. The band’s blog post is (brilliantly) titled homage or fromage is done nicely. It’s not mean, or threatening. It just points it out and includes YouTube embeds of many of the commercials in question:

we’re not suggesting anyone’s ripping anyone off here, or has purposely gone out to plagiarise sigur rós music, because that might get us sued (which would be ironic). and in any case, you can get all the musicologists’ reports you like and all they will tell you is that the chord sequence is “commonly used” or the structure is a “style-a-like” and not a “pass off”rós. or – in this case – that despite the fact that the two pieces are “strongly similar in terms of general musical style, instrumentation and structure” and “created with a knowledge of and/or reference to the works of sigur rós in general and ‘hoppipolla’ in particular”, there is “insufficient evidence in the music to support a claim for infringement of the copyright”. in other words change a note here, swap things around a bit there and, hey presto, it’s an original composition. inspiration moves in mysterious ways.

what we wanted to do here was post series of ads that have made us go ‘hmmm’ and let you decide who’s zooming who? but quite often when you go back and look for them you find the ads in question have disappeared off the radar (come in coca cola mexico, new zealand lotto, telmex chile, etc). anyway, here’s a few expensively produced, gorgeously executed examples of brands who you might feel are inserting a little too much fromage in their homage.

Always nice to see a band not go legal, but look for a more creative way to make their point.

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Comments on “Social Mores At Work: Sigur Ros Calls Out Commercials With 'Similar' Music”

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R. Miles (profile) says:

Another entitlement attitude. Great.

we’re not suggesting anyone’s ripping anyone off here
I didn’t know someone can steal musical notes now.

or has purposely gone out to plagiarise sigur rós music
Imitation is the best form of flattery. Well, we can cross off this saying as bullshit.

because that might get us sued
If only. A lesson needs to be taught.

strongly similar in terms of general musical style, instrumentation and structure
Yep, because no matter what, a guitar still sounds like a guitar regardless who plays it.

in other words change a note here, swap things around a bit there and, hey presto, it’s an original composition.
This is exactly how every musician learns to create music.

what we wanted to do here was post series of ads that have made us go ‘hmmm’ and let you decide who’s zooming who?
Post ads? You mean, infringe the rights of others who made those ads? Classic. YouTube. Why am I not surprised.

Well, I’ve seen enough. We’re done here.

kyle clements (profile) says:

Re: Another entitlement attitude. Great.

“Yep, because no matter what, a guitar still sounds like a guitar regardless who plays it.”

That’s not true at all. Different performers can bring out a world of unique sounds from a guitar.

I am gifted with the ability to make a guitar sound like a skinned cat

Yes, every musician learns to play music this way, but there is a difference between a student working out some songs and changing up a few things, and a company hiring experienced studio musicians to emulate a certain band’s style.
I think the band is right to call them on it, and I also think that humour is a much better tool than a lawsuit.

And since when is an embedded youtube video infringement? if they didn’t want people to be doing that, they would have disabled the ‘allow embedding’ option during the upload.

DMNTD says:

Re: Another entitlement attitude. Great.: ROFL

Wow R.miles …devil’s advocate very often? Seriously they made some really good points and they stick. These companies could not get their way so they cheated, plain and simply cheated. Like all “big kids” love to do in society. I like how it was just stated and left to the fans and listeners to laugh as these fat cats who just can’t stand being told no.

BTW I don’t believe imitation is any sort of flattery and I find it offensive. INSPIRATION I find flattering but imitation and how that saying goes is for people who don’t want to put the work into creation.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: If there is no copyright

Yes, they would, and the band could use the videos to promote themselves as well. Arguably both (or all three) would win.

Now a question I have is if because these companies took this action (assuming they largely copied), does that mean all of us can now copy the IP of these companies? Might allowing this perhaps not be a win-win-win? Are these companies saying it is alright to copy? Do these companies believe in the removal of copyrights?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: If there is no copyright

If there was no copyright, wouldn’t the advertisers be free to use Sigur Rós’s actual music without asking for permission?

Yes. And if Sigur Ros didn’t like it, it could call them out, and make those who used that music in commercials look bad — doing much harm to them. Thus, most companies who wanted to use Sigur Ros music in commercials would have *social pressure* to sign a deal, even in the absence of copyright law.

We’ve already seen this in action, in the way that movie studios pay reporters or authors for the “rights” to a news story, even though it’s not actually “owned” by anyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see no evil here.

So they copied the style changed the notes which is wise or else they would be sued for real what is the problem?

They didn’t have permission to do so? so if someone tell others nobody can say some phrase will everyone fallow it?

And because of how copyright function artists can forget about acknowledgments because anybody who says they took inspiration from somewhere will be slapped with a lawsuit for making a derivative work, so it is not in the best interest of anyone copying anyone else to say so, now that hurts and I understand by I don’t see how people can ask more from others, people will not risk liability to be noble, specially companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting to read this story along side the ones about Nike and non-commercial licenses.

1) Aren’t the commercial makers ‘building on the work of others’? Surely a positive thing.

2) Sigur Ros should be glad of the free publicity. They would have got even more publicity and chances to connect with new fans if they’d just let the commercial makers use their song in the first place.

Blatant Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Sigur Ros should be glad of the free publicity.”

What publicity? Their name is not mentioned anywhere, and the car company if it were asked would simply go ‘Sugar who?’

Now had some one been wearing a Sigur Ros concert Tee or the band members used in the commercials, I could lean towards that theory. I can prove this by the fact you didn’t use a name so no one is cognizant of the fact you don’t even bother to half think opinions out.

No publicity is sometimes a good thing, but you don’t make money off your thoughts I guess.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

1) Aren’t the commercial makers ‘building on the work of others’? Surely a positive thing.

Indeed. But they did so in a way that risks social reputational costs. That’s the point.

2) Sigur Ros should be glad of the free publicity. They would have got even more publicity and chances to connect with new fans if they’d just let the commercial makers use their song in the first place.

Potentially yes, but not the point, really. Again, it’s about the social reputational costs to those who copied without permission. The same is true even minus copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good Advertising

All the discussion about these ads, with prominent mentions of Sigur R?s, has been great publicity for the band. Obscurity is the biggest danger to artists. Of course, it could all be a cunning plot by the band:

1. Knock back the advertisers. Goad them a bit.

2. Advertisers get pissed, decide to do knock off.

3. Advertisers spend squillions in huge campaigns.

4. Discussion about knock off ensues. Sigur R?s gets famous.

5. Band releases music and videos to frenzied acclaim.

6. Profit!

Anonymous Coward says:

This is potentially an astute move

When I worked in a record store (long time ago, when they were still useful), we’d always have people coming in and asking about “that song from that one commercial.” Now, of course, people who wonder about it are just going to search the internet. When they do, they’re going to find, at the upper portions of the page, the discussion from the band’s website and fan base. They’re going to learn that the actual music used is by a bunch of no-name session musicians, but hey it was written to sound like these guys and this is where you can get their stuff.

In other words, the band is able to use the money spent on the music for the ads and bring the attention back around to themselves anyway, without having to do anything–they get to tell their hardcore fans “dudes we totally didn’t sell out” while at the same time promoting themselves to new listeners. That’s pretty slick.

Fin says:

If you guys don’t know Sigur Ros you should get out of your caves in Texas. This side of the world knows them pretty well. They’re last album hit number 1 at the Pirate Bay. It seems too much ethnocentrism and a little lacking in geography can have unintended resutls. Just saying.

They toured the country doing free concerts in remote locations. Yes, free. No strings attached. The result was a docu called Heima. Download it at the bay and check out the difference between real artist and Ga Ga shit.

Hey Miles, it seems they touched a nerve. Are you copying/pasting/changing 1 chord for commercials by any chance?

Anonymous Coward says:

You can call the music yours. You can even say the lyrics were written by you. But every song I have ever written was like I was simply a channel and the words and music just flowed out. Is that creativity? Is that the muse? It’s kinda like the American Indians philosophy: You never own the land, you simply borrow it and share it.

Anonymous Coward says:

One of my greatest guitar inspirations was Joe Walsh. It wasn’t because he was so great, he is! It was because of an interview I read. He stated: I hope people rip me off for my licks, I look forward to it. Maybe you’ll change it around or add a feeling to it I never thought of. Hopefully you’ll record that so I can rip it off.

Cohen (profile) says:

They do have a legal leg to stand on

I remember back in my days in advertising being warned by the guy in charge of music to watch out if we tried to get a specific song for a commercial.

He said that if we asked about the rights to a song and found it too expensive, we would have to be very careful not to do anything that was at all a “sound-a-like” song.

He said it was better to just go for a sound-a-like without asking first. Then it would be a simple coincidence. But as soon as we asked, the music house would be alerted.

So the problem wasn’t the sound-a-likes. It was asking before hand.

Paul` says:

This happens all the time. My guitar teacher at uni told me about how he recorded an add for Myer, a large department store chain in Australia, where they wanted the Renn and Stimpy theme but couldn’t secure the rights so they got him to play something ‘like’ it. Then it was a back and forward of too alike and we’ll be sued or not recognizable enough.

Thanatossassin (profile) says:

Pizza Hut vs the Mighty Mighty Bosstones...

Can’t rememeber when, but I remember Lead Singer Dickey Barret talking about his experiences with commercial music.

Essentially Pizza Hut tries to buy the rights of ‘The Impression That I Get;’ gets turned down; says that’s fine, we’ll just create our own version; Commercial’s released; Bosstones sue & win, Pizza Hut breaks even budget-wise regardless.

I’m running on memory here that’s tainted with a weekend in Vegas, so take it about as credible as your general wikipedia entry 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

A Chord is a Chord. No one can Copyright it or Trademark it. It is a Chord. I put 3 different chords together and I can have a song. Many songs only need 3 chords. What’s the beef? Just create more music. People place too much value on the creative process. It’s great when a person can write one song and collect royalties all of their life. But it’s still only a song. It’s not anything else. It has value only to the people listening to it.

Lonzo5 says:

Moot Point

I think it’s a moot point, not only legally but morally as well. A lot of bands sound like Sigur Ros– not exactly, but fairly close. They’re pretty much just shoegazers. They’re also not entitled to be free from imitation; besides, these commercials will probably steer more listeners their way than toward the unknown musicians who recorded them. I can hear it now:
“Who’s this?”
“Oh, they sound kinda like Sigur Ros.”
“What do they play?”
“Can’t think of anything off the top of my head. They’re Icelandic.”
“Right on. I gotta check them out.”

Then guy#1 finds music that’s better (If the other band is better, then Sigur Ros’ concerns take on an entirely new dimension) than what he heard on the commercial, made by musicians who likely have a much more interesting bio.

It’s called a genre, and while musical paraphrasing is not exactly the noblest of pursuits, Sigur Ros did not create that particular genre of music, nor would they “own” it if they had. Aside from that, considering that there were grievances, it is refreshing that they chose to address them in this way rather than making some baseless legal claim.

Grillo (profile) says:

Sigur Ros

Well, for me, what’s really interesting is that this thing happened not just in Europe or in the U.S., but it also happened in South America, especially my country, Chile with a commercial about mineral water. But is a usual practice here. In fact, I’ve seen commercials with similar songs of Lilly Allen and Avril Lavigne.


Greetings from Chile!!!

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