There's Only So Many Ways To Combine Chords...

from the so-stop-worrying-about-copying dept

The whole Coldplay/Joe Satriani copyright fight is pretty silly for a a variety of reasons. Yes, there are some similarities, but there's a ton of stuff in music that sounds the same. There's a great chapter in James Boyle's The Public Domain all about Ray Charles' song I Got A Woman, where Boyle goes back in time to show how Charles' song basically copies from a few others (in some cases rather blatantly) in order to effectively invent soul music. Then he moves forward and looks at how others have built off of Charle's song as well. You can read the whole chapter (and, indeed, the whole book) online. The chapter in question is Chapter 6: I Got a Mashup.

Then, of course, many folks have seen the comedian who points out how many songs are based on the same basic progression as Pachelbel's Canon in D:

Along those lines, reader Bill Squire has sent in this similar video about how many songs use the same basic chord progression as Journey's Don't Stop Believing:
And yet, now some people are worried that one musician has come up with a similar song?

Filed Under: chords, humor, music, similarity

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  1. identicon
    James Keegan, 23 Jan 2009 @ 10:50am


    Music copyright law is not based solely on chord progressions. If so the blues would be a legal mess (and even melody rules are bent in this genre). It is the chord progression, melody and rhythmic phrasing combined. The western world follows what is known as a 12 tone scale. Considering the length of time this scale has been used and the number of composers the world has seen, you are bound to get repetition. As a 30 year musician, I find common chord progressions daily and many similar melodies but the Coldplay/Satriani case is almost funny. If I were Joe Satriani, not only would I sue, but I would be making a big media fuss over it just to be as insulting as possible. Similar is one thing. The same is not only illegal but stupid.

    Be careful commenting on musical copyright law when you are neither an attorney nor a musician. It's much the same as me commenting on Quantum Physics. About all I could truthfully say is, "It's neat!" Beyond that, I don't understand it so how could I have an opinion on how it should be governed?

    This whole article is a case of another media type expressing his opinion on a topic he knows little to nothing about continuing the miseducation of his readers. Why are you even talking about musical copyright law on a Tech website?

    Until you have the legal or musical background, please stay out of my business.

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