Is Using A Single Lyric From A Musician You're A Fan Of 'Theft' Or 'An Homage'?

from the i'd-go-with-the-latter dept

A few different folks have submitted variations on this story of singer Taylor Swift copying a single lyric from a singer for whom she’d long expressed admiration. That singer, Matt Nathanson, responded the way any normal person would: by being happy about the homage and recognizing how it might draw more attention… I’m sorry, what was I saying? I meant that he called one of his biggest fans, who just happens to be a hugely popular singer with a ridiculously loyal following, a thief.

In case you were wondering:

Here’s the Taylor Swift line:

“And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to”

Here’s Matt Nathanson’s:

“And I’ll forget about you long enough to forget why I need to”

Considering that Swift has admitted that Nathanson is a personal favorite, and that she sometimes scribbles his lyrics on her arm before performing (?!?!?), it’s unlikely to be a case that both of them came up with the lyric independently, though it’s not exactly the most original lyric.

Either way, welcome to the latest edition of “ownership society” in which even an homage is attacked as “theft.”

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Comments on “Is Using A Single Lyric From A Musician You're A Fan Of 'Theft' Or 'An Homage'?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I could have met Matt Nathanson earlier this year. He was the opening act for Kelly Clarkson. Between his performance and Kelly’s there was an intermission during which he was meeting with fans and signing autographs. However, I was right in front of the stage and there was NO WAY I was giving up my position.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have come to inform you that I just copyrighted the entire English dictionary. All words in the English language belong to me. If you need to speak English I can license you for a starting plan of $50 a month for up to 10,000 words. If you exceed the limit you will be charge .05 for each additional word. There will also be an additional charges for listening, reading, and writing in English. Failure to license the English language will result in a permanent ban and you will be forced to switch languages and have the English language database deleted from your cerebral cortex.

Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile) says:

Re: Copyrighted English Dictionary

But, I pause to let you know this, I had the same idea without ever seeing YOUR plan. Therefore I’m covered under “independent inventor” and plan to “lease” my language to anyone whom wants to use it for a mere $40/month and .03 per additional word over 10k.

I would advice you to file a lawsuit, but to do so you would have to use MY language and as such would be in effect violating the law by submitting the filing and since the govt can’t enable you to do so you can’t sue me.

I’ll sit here & wait for your settlement offer. have a nice day.

Austin (profile) says:


I was trying to come up with some sort of excellent retort or funny aside to post in response to this lunacy, but I think I have developed some sort of strange chemical imbalance wherein, when a story on Techdirt reaches the highest levels of “OMG how fucking dumb can you be?”-ness, I start seeing blood and feeling rage and can’t think straight.

Is this normal? Maybe this only happens with prolonged Techdirt reading? Perhaps I need to lay off it for a while or something? And how did my CD collection end up in shattered pieces on the floor?!

Oh well, back to The Bay.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Everyone will have to come up with their own words now.....

I guess this is the end game of owning ideas. From now on everyone will have to come up with their own words to express their own ideas. Anything else makes you a thief.

Let’s see how that works;

“Fo muvh eadvofj. R04fj2dadOIHfq24 IEUrwq03 OIF- q3w89re roif3r oar30hf oyawer.”

Anyone understand me?

If yes;
You owe me royalties for thinking my patent pending language.
(I’ll waive them on the condition that you don’t turn me in for using someone else’s idea đŸ˜‰

If no;
What exactly is the point of that?!?@#!?

Words, language, only works if we use shared utterances. Otherwise no one else can understand what you’re saying.

Since by definition every word you use has to be known by someone else first (how else did _you_ learn it?) we either have to give up the silly notion that we can own words and phrases or just stop communicating. Admittedly for some people that sounds like a good idea.

If Taylor Swift reused a phrase from Matt Nathanson, who cares? Songs are written about other songs, about poems, about books.

“Wuthering Heights” the book by Emily Bront? lead to a songs by Kate Bush. She was inspired by the 1970 film of the movie. Some of the lyrics are quotes of the book. ( ) I guess the Bront? estate should get to suing. Perhaps people just weren’t that silly in the late 70’s (clothing not withstanding).

The sooner we get over the collective delusion that we can _own_ words or ideas the better off we as a species will be.

sehlat (profile) says:

Hmm. Let's compare the performers.

Taylor Swift: “As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Swift’s other achievements include six Grammy Awards, ten American Music Awards, seven Country Music Association Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards and thirteen BMI Awards.” — Wikipedia

Matt Nathanson: [crickets]

The whole thing sounds more like a publicity grab by a small-time performer attacking one of the giants for some cheap attention.

I think I’ll go have a listen to Ms. Swift.

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