Satriani And Coldplay Settle Lawsuit Over Melody... Which Is Really Too Bad

from the this-would-have-been-a-useful-lawsuit dept

Late last year, Joe Satriani sued Coldplay, claiming that the band's song Viva La Vida violated the copyright on his song, If I Could Fly. This resulted in all sorts of back and forth arguments, and eventually the realization that a bunch of other songs -- even many that predated Satriani's -- were quite similar. In fact, Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens later jumped in claiming that a song of his from the 70s was the real inspiration for the Coldplay song. Oddly... rather than recognize that this proved Satriani wrong, Islam insisted that he was going to see how Satriani did in court. He later claimed that he forgave Coldplay, even if there's no evidence at all that they actually copied -- and he admitted to coming up with song melodies that were first done elsewhere.

But the main event was supposed to be the lawsuit between Coldplay and Satriani -- scheduled to take place early next year. It looks like that's not happening. Blaise points to a blog post noting that the two sides appear to have come to a settlement. There aren't any details yet, just filings to dismiss the case, signed by both parties, suggesting a settlement has been reached. At this point, it's not at all clear what that settlement means, but the most likely scenario is that Coldplay handed over some cash to make Satriani go away.

In the end, that's really too bad, as it would have been quite an interesting court case. Without an official ruling on the matter, we can expect to see other, similar lawsuits filed in the future, every time some musician gets jealous of another musician for using a similar melody.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    AC, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    I've got the 'G' chord copyrighted. Can I start rakin in the money?

     

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  2.  
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    TheStupidOne, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re:

    you gotta register it with the copyright office first. THEN you can rake in the money

     

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  3.  
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    Dez (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re:

    Which G chord? Each one brings a different feeling to the overall song.

    http://www.jamplay.com/guitar-chords/g-major-guitar-chord.html

    Good luck though :-p

     

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  4.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re:

    Yeah? Well, I've got the G-String Patent (no, the other one), so every time somebody plays that 'G' chord you'll need to be paying me licensing fees.

    :P

     

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  5.  
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    Dez (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Permutations of 13

    There are 13 notes in one octave (black and white keys for those counting). To find two similar melodies isn't surprising. However I remember listening to the two different versions that were being argued. The were eerily similar. All the way through the whole melody, which is very strange. Yes, there is a chance that both bands could have made the same exact melody without purposely copying it, but I doubt it.

    Here is a youtube mashup of the two:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvB9Pj9Znsw

    The problem is that supporting instrumentation sounds almost exact just with different instruments. Now the chances of unintentional duplication go down to almost zero I hope the settlement was a good one (For Satriani).

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Led Zeppelin must be really glad this type of thing wasn't going on back in their day.

     

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  7.  
    icon
    Nicholas Overstreet (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    This happens all the time, so what?

    Bands do this ALL the time.
    Theory of a Deadman's "Bad Girlfriend" borrows directly from The Cult's "Fire Woman" but you don't see The Cult getting their panties in a bunch do you? (Maybe ToaDM had permission from The Cult, I don't know).
    Satriani seems like some broke joke who is just trying to get a final pay day in there.
    Even with the same melody in the background, the songs are so dissimilar I don't think it should even be a question of infringement. But, that's just me I guess...

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    DS, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    It's all a rip off of Zelda.. they both know it...

    ;)

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    Led Zeppelin was successfully sued by Willie Dixon in the '80s.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Bugsy, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    What copyright "is"

    Yes there is a formula for how many consecutive melody notes amount to legal plagarism (see George Harrison "My Sweet" losing lawsuit to writers of "He's So Fine", and Yoko Ono who lifted the melody from "Makin' Whoopee" and took full song writer credit for her song "Yes I'm Your Angel") but much more slippery is the slope when one artist carefully steals the flavor and feel of anothers. There can be no legal recourse for obvious thievery like Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time", a shameless ripoff of the THE TYMES 60's hit "So in love are we two", Ray Parker's 1984 theme from "Ghostbusters" which not only ripped off the flavor and feel of Huey Lewis "I want a new drug", but did it in the same year, or Dire Straits "Money for nothin'" which appropriated the exact guitar sound and riffs of ZZ Top.
    Like our friend above suggested, there are only 13 notes in the musical scale" (actually 12, if you play the next note it's the same as the first one, an octave up) and melodies must be drawn from that small pool. But I suggest there is much more to ripping off a song than simply repeating five notes.

     

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  11.  
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    Dewey, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    /Grammar Nazi Song titles go in quotes, album titles in italics. /Grammar Nazi

     

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  12.  
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    Matt (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    Glad it settled

    This suit would not have been precedent setting, or even terribly legally interesting. The chorus of the Coldplay song is strikingly similar to the verse of the Satriani song - not just melody, but melody, harmony, time signature, tempo, and rhythmic feel. And Satriani is one of, if not the, most successful guitar instrumentalists alive. He has played this song in concert for over a decade. So there was access and substantial similarity, and could have been a judgment for Satriani (Coldplay may have had good defenses - I have not read about any).

    Moreover, Satriani('s camp) wrote to Coldplay('s camp) about the issue several times before filing the suit. So there was an opportunity for an informal, civil solution. Coldplay never responded until after the suit was filed.

    Under the law as it is, this was a good case. That is too bad. Thank heavens it settled before an unfortunate result was obtained in court.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Bugsy, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    What copyright "is"

    Yes there is a formula for how many consecutive melody notes amount to legal plagarism (see George Harrison "My Sweet" losing lawsuit to writers of "He's So Fine", and Yoko Ono who lifted the melody from "Makin' Whoopee" and took full song writer credit for her song "Yes I'm Your Angel") but much more slippery is the slope when one artist carefully steals the flavor and feel of anothers. There can be no legal recourse for obvious thievery like Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time", a shameless ripoff of the THE TYMES 60's hit "So in love are we two", Ray Parker's 1984 theme from "Ghostbusters" which not only ripped off the flavor and feel of Huey Lewis "I want a new drug", but did it in the same year, or Dire Straits "Money for nothin'" which appropriated the exact guitar sound and riffs of ZZ Top.
    Like our friend above suggested, there are only 13 notes in the musical scale" (actually 12, if you play the next note it's the same as the first one, an octave up) and melodies must be drawn from that small pool. But I suggest there is much more to ripping off a song than simply repeating five notes.

     

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

  14.  
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    scarr (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Permutations of 13

    12.

     

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

  15.  
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    jake, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Coldplay ripoff band

    I'd like to see U2 sue Coldplay for their rip off of the U2 song Bad.

     

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  16.  
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    DJ (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 4:27pm

    Re: What copyright "is"

    Hmmm.
    I'm familiar with the music and lyrics of all of those, except "so in love are we two", which I couldn't even google. So, as I sat there for a few minutes reading the lyrics of each song, and came to the conclusion that any lawsuits that took place were 100% for the purposes of attention only.

    In regards to "Ghostbusters" vs "I want a New Drug", the rythm and tempo are similar, but the music and flow of the songs are completely different. In regards to "Money for Nothin'", there is NO OTHER SONG that has that guitar sound. They specially programmed the computer to do that when they were writing the song.

    That being said, I have heard the Coldplay vs Satriani mash-up, and they ARE eerily similar, so I suppose infringement is possible. The others, though? Not even close.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Dan Gardner, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

    It's time for Copyright law to end

    People argue against a world without intellectual copyrights because they don't understand how people would make money off of their original ideas. But this case proves what is becoming more and more apparent, that there is no such thing as an original idea. You create ideas from what you have learned. Are Yusuf and Stevens going to claim that they were the first ones to play this progression/melody. It's not about subjectivity, it's about the fact that nobody should own things that they formulate from what they have learned. A song is not physical property and should not be treated as such.

    Daniel Gardner
    http://wizkidsound.com

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Marc G., Sep 14th, 2009 @ 11:27pm

    Similar ? With only a few notes of difference, the Coldplay/Satriani melody was identical !

     

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  19.  
    icon
    bugmenot (profile), Sep 19th, 2009 @ 3:50pm

    Wow 2 of my top favorite artists against one another.

     

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


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