Coldplay Denies Copying Satriani In Federal Court Filing

from the legal-guitarmageddon dept

Last December, guitarist Joe Satriani sued Coldplay for copyright infringement over a similar sounding melody. The story generated a lot of discussion here, as people dug up countless examples of other songs with similar melodies (some predating Satriani's tune) to support the argument that it might just be a natural melody to sing over the chords. The lawsuit resurfaced in the news around the Grammys, with Coldplay calling it "ridiculous" and Satriani making an emotional case ("I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much..."). Techdirt reader GK points to the news that, last week, Coldplay's lawyers submitted a federal court filing arguing that any similarities between the two songs were not significant enough to warrant damages. It looks like this may actually go to trial since Satriani is demanding "any and all profits" and Coldplay is standing its ground, but GK suspects that they'll likely reach a settlement in the end, "offering Satriani a sense of vindication and Coldplay a quieter option for laying the thing to rest." That seems to be what Satriani wants.

If this really is a case of independent creation, it's troubling how difficult that would be to prove. In the comments of our original piece, several people noted the case of Bright Tunes v. Harrisongs in which a judge ruled that George Harrison had infringed another song through "unconscious copying" -- not intentionally, but by accidentally using a melody he'd heard elsewhere and had stored in his unconscious memory. The problem with "unconscious copying" and unintentional copyright infringement of a melody is that it undermines the independent creation defense and creates a pretty broad scope for what could be construed as copyright infringement in songwriting. Basically, any melody that sounds significantly similar to another might be considered "copied," even though that happens all the time in music. Plus, it's not like a similar sounding melody in a completely different song is harmful to the "original;" it's not like people are listening to Coldplay's song instead of Satriani's, or that one tune is impacting the commercial potential of the other. There is no functional equivalency in art.

The Harrison case is well-entrenched, but if Coldplay is intent on clearing its name, the case may offer the courts a chance to rethink the decision (or to re-affirm it...). Though, so far Coldplay's lawyers seem to be using a de minimis copying defense, arguing that any similarities are insignificant, rather than focusing on independent creation. At any rate, this could be a precedent-setting case... but don't hold your breath. In the end, it may well just be easier for Coldplay to pay up, settle and make it go away.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2009 @ 9:22am

    Unlike hip-hop where they just rip off the accompaniment to a good song and stick a bunch of third-rate rhymes in front of it and package it as "music."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Your Gawd and Master, 16 Apr 2009 @ 12:02pm

      unlike everything else..

      ....where they just rip off the music to a good song and stick a bunch of third-rate lyrics in front of it and package it as music...

      You forget ALL music has the 5/95 dope-to-doodoo ratio. You just happen to be a fucking bigot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sir_flexalot (profile), 16 Apr 2009 @ 9:40am

    8-bar sample vs. melody copy

    There is an 8-bar "gimme" rule in music where if you want to sample (i.e. exact audio copy) a song, you can usually get away with it, with a wink and a nod to the originator. Unfortunately, if the melody and lead are the same in a "new" song, giving the impression that it is not meant as a sample, and that becomes a platinum hit... for future reference, you better make sure the original author is dead before you try that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark, 16 Apr 2009 @ 9:48am

    Classical music

    It's amazing how in the 1600 & 1700s it was considered OK to use the technique of theme and variation using snipets from other classical works to create your new music. I wonder how Mozart would feel about modern day sampling and copyright.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    LOL, 16 Apr 2009 @ 9:56am

    Guess this means the end of "Top 40"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, 16 Apr 2009 @ 9:58am

    Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

    All Coldplay needs to do right now is instruct their lawyers to seek out all the artists who created songs with similar sounding chord progressions *before* Suckriani. Get just *one* of them on board, and file a counter suit against Suckriani for doing the same thing he's suing Coldplay for.

    What do you bet Suckriani folds?

    By the way, Suckriani is such a fucking has-been, he makes Neil Young look like a winner.

    CBMHB

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2009 @ 10:05am

      Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

      OH, Hahaha!

      I see what you did there, you replaced Satriani with Suckriani. How clever as well as subtle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Andy, 16 Apr 2009 @ 12:30pm

      Re: Here's How To Slap Suckriani...

      Suckriani? Yea right. Nice to see maturity from you.

      I'm a huge Satriani fan, and I personally don't believe Coldplay stole that melody. To me, it sounds like a coincidence that the music fit so well together. I think it'll be very tough to prove.

      Grow up dude. Just because you don't like an artist doesn't mean you have to come up with stupid ass nicknames. Makes you seem like you're 10.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stuart, 16 Apr 2009 @ 10:06am

    Satriani

    Wow. I used to listen to his music. It was good, not good enough to keep listening after this craptasticly idiotic move by him. Hope he is cool with saying he USED to have fans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Andy, 16 Apr 2009 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Satriani

      So you weren't really a fan then eh. I think his music is great, and if he feels that another artist stole a piece of his music, he has the right to protect that. I don't agree that Coldplay did, but if you felt someone stole something from you, wouldn't you try and protect yourself?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Killer_Tofu (profile), 16 Apr 2009 @ 1:18pm

        Re: Re: Satriani

        Andy, nothing was stolen. If something was indeed stolen, sure, go and get it back. Except we are talking about copyright junk here. Nothing was stolen. It is not like now that Coldplay has used the tune Satriani can never use it again (and listening to originals of each song instead of the altered ones played on top of each other, they aren't complete similar anyways). This is just how music is. It can never be stolen.
        Sooo, if he feels that another artist stole a piece of his music, then he simply doesn't understand that its just all imaginary property. Its infinitely available. They can both use it and be none the worse off.
        If somebody copied the entire song, note for note, altering not a darn thing, including any lyrics, and then claimed it was their song, I might be able to see an argument.

        In the case of parodies, they give credit to the original author so I can't see any harm there either.
        In short, I think Satriani is just being a whiney bitch.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DS, 16 Apr 2009 @ 10:09am

    Wasn't this the same melody that was very similar to the Legend of Zelda theme song, which came out before both songs listed above?

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, as I may very well be in this case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    LOL, 16 Apr 2009 @ 10:58am

    Lots of Coldplays sycophants out tonight.

    Fags.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 16 Apr 2009 @ 11:09am

    Standing Ground

    While I do not so much care for either. Well, I don't like about any Coldplay, and haven't really heard Satriani.
    I do hope that Coldplay stands its ground until the end though. And that they win. By as wide a margin as is possible. Copyright needs to go down. The more restrictions we get on it, the better. That is until it is completely rewritten to make more sense and reflect today's technologies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fuzzix, 16 Apr 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Satriani has a heart?

    Never heard it in his music - it's pretty sterile, even as shredding goes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Azrael, 17 Apr 2009 @ 2:24am

      Re: Satriani has a heart?

      So Satriani is a shredder ? Never knew that. After listening to his sounds i thought he was recording his unnatural acts with goats.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 16 Apr 2009 @ 12:54pm

    DON'T SETTLE!

    Come on, Coldplay has shitloads of cash and Satriani is being a pretentious haughty bitch.

    Fight the case to the end and make that has-been hack eat his lawyer fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 16 Apr 2009 @ 2:55pm

    Grammy's?

    So when COLDPLAY has to pay up for the rip-off here will the Grammy's stand on all this? They will have to take away the awards otherewise THEY (the Grammys) are endorsing copyright infringement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 16 Apr 2009 @ 4:20pm

    Killing the Blues

    It seems like this case could make every single blues song illegal...since they all sound exactly the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GK, 17 Apr 2009 @ 7:55am

    "Perish those who said our good things before we did."

    - Donatus

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, 17 Apr 2009 @ 5:43pm

    Coldplay and Satriani

    "In the end, it may well just be easier for Coldplay to pay up, settle and make it go away."
    Hummm! If they are that dumb, I think I will copyright middle C, and sue them for every song they produce.
    After all, it might be easier just to pay up, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digital Citizen, 20 Apr 2009 @ 4:52pm

    get an iPhone to settle it

    I bet the iPhone is smart enough to know Coldplay ripped off Satriani. And for those calling him Suckiani or whatever, that's worse punning than you give his music credit for... and what does it say about a band who rips off someone who supposedly sucks that bad? If Satriani is a has been, Coldplay is a never was for copying him. In denial about copying, in denial about why "their" music really sells.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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