EMI Claims Controversial Satriani/Coldplay Mashup Video Violates Coldplay Copyright

from the ironically-stupid dept

A few weeks ago, there was quite the lively discussion over a video mashing up Coldplay's song Viva La Vida with Joe Satriani's If I Could Fly. While the video had been on YouTube for quite some time, Satriani had decided to sue Coldplay over it, demanding all profits from its song. There are a number of reasons why this didn't make much sense, but folks in our comments did a fantastic job sniffing out the details -- including the fact that the video mashing up both videos had actually altered to make them sound alike, and if you listened to the originals, they were not nearly as close. They are in different tempos/keys to make them sound alike. That same user also pointed us to a Cat Stevens song Love/Heaven from (at least) 1973 that sounds quite similar as well, suggesting that if Coldplay owes Satriani any money, Satriani actually owes Cat Stevens quite a bit as well. Or there's the song Hearts by Marty Balin of Jefferson Starship... written in 1981. Or any of the other dozen or so songs that others have pointed out sound quite similar -- and if mixed professionally to change the tempo could probably sound like a pretty exact match.

Either way, it appears the story has now taken a turn towards the totally ridiculous, as EMI, who holds the copyright on Coldplay songs has gone around claiming copyright on the Satriani/Coldplay mashup videos that were out there. It is true that whoever put those videos together, did a really good job adjusting the two songs to make them work together. Because of that, many people hear the mashup and immediately assume that it's so close that Coldplay absolutely must have copied Satriani. But, there's little actual evidence to support that -- and, given that both songs were actually adjusted to make the video, it's quite misleading. Still, for EMI to then go and demand those videos be taken down (while leaving up plenty of other videos of just Coldplay's music) is just dumb. First of all, the mashup video is almost certainly fair use. It's used for criticism and/or reporting, and not for profit (well, unless you're Joe Satriani).

But, more importantly, in pulling down the video it makes it look like EMI and Coldplay have something to hide, while calling even more attention to the whole thing. It takes a special kind of short-sightedness to claim that a video supposedly demonstrating your own copyright violations violates your copyright. When the whole story first broke, Coldplay quickly denied any connection, saying that, if there were any similarities it was a coincidence. The band should have left it at that... or, if EMI were really smart (stop laughing), it should have produced a professional mashup of some of those other songs as well, demonstrating how common that particular melody is in music, and how one can distort a few songs to make them sound the same. Instead, it chose the worst option of all: acting guilty and abusing copyright law to try to hide stuff.

Filed Under: cat stevens, coldplay, copyright, fair use, joe satriani, mashup, music
Companies: emi


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  1. identicon
    Joe, 24 Dec 2008 @ 11:59am

    What about the math...

    "I feel this chap has got the nail on the head, as a keen musician there is no arguing that the songs are musically TOO similar to be different. "

    He may be a good music theorist, but he's not a lawyer or a mathematician. EVEN IF they are similar, the question is if they are SIGNIFICANTLY similar such that it is highly improbable that this is just a coincidence. What if the probability is such that any two songs within these two genres are one in 100000 that they will be as similar (with all MUSICAL notions taken into consideration). Then of the millions of songs created in the past 50 years there's bound to be coincidental similarity of songs. So it's a mathematicians job to take all musical notions into account and integrate this probability over n years and determine the probability that this could of happened eventually. Now I'm sure the math would be insane here, but based on the now 5 youtube songs that sound just as "similar" as Sat's it is not unreasonable that this could of happened by chance (YES WITH EVERY SINGLE MUSICAL ASPECT TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT, YES AS UNLIKELY AS YOU THINK IT IS). Indeed, it seems to happen all the time--people just have short memories. That, and there are enough intransigent coldplay haters who never actually thought about the aesthetics, the purpose of music, and so eschew the popular that this issue has got so much play.

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