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.

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  1. identicon
    Keyz, 26 Dec 2008 @ 1:32pm

    Assuming it's legitimate (the band does look legitimate, though I've personally not heard of them), this example appears the most convincing yet (against Satriani's case): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPMkEWJaEBE#t=2m40s It's a song called "Sing for your Supper" by a New Zealand band called Tim Armstrong Band and the song was evidently recorded in the 1980s. If anyone could confirm that this is indeed the original recording, then it would be the most significant evidence against Satriani's case as of yet (not that there isn't already enough). It looks like Tim Armstrong has been in several bands over the years, so the song might be under a different band name. Some will likely say "Satriani's probably never heard of that band or heard that song." Maybe, maybe not. In the same way, though Coldplay certainly are aware of Satriani, there's no proof that they've heard his song "If I Could Fly" (after all, it wasn't a famous or well known song, and would only be known by Satriani fans, not necessarily by people who've just heard/know about Satriani, or listen to his music occasionally, and to claim that Coldplay are "fans" would be pure speculation). I think the many examples brought up so far of nearly this exact melody prove beyond doubt that this is just a melody that happens to come up more easily/often (which over the simple common chord progression it's played over, and the limited number of "pleasant sounding notes" that are even possible over those chords, is not at all surprising). I've been analyzing (along with a variety of other experts in music theory) the popular "creativeguitarstudio" teacher's music theory videos about Coldplay/Satriani, and we have found almost every point made in them to be inaccurate. I'm working on a comprehensive response (with video if possible) to highlight the correct music theory, supplied with actual proof (it's taking a while since I'm just doing it when I have spare time). As I mentioned earlier, I'm not doing this because of being a fan of either band/musician - I'm just fed up with the wrong music theory being spread around as "proof" - not to mention it's a fun and interesting music theory exercise :)

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