Gotcha! – Copyright infringement

Ah, those nasty two words every musician dreads: copyright infringement. The list of the accused covers many of the luminaries from the last 40 years, and covers most genres. What makes infringement so worrisome is that it is often done unintentionally. Were you really influenced by a song you don’t even remember hearing? Musical style relies on stock phrases and musical patterns to establish identity, and this is particularly pronounced in popular music where fewer chords limit the range of possible melodies. Blues is the best known example at the extreme end of the spectrum, every song being built on the same chord progressions and general melodic structure. Plagiarism and blues is almost an oxymoron.

Here is a rundown of some of the better known cases (in both the legal and non-legal sense). It offers an interesting perspective on the variety of situations and attitudes involved. Continue reading →

Did Prince really plagiarize an Italian tune?

Prince performing at Coachella, 2008An Italian court has ruled that Prince plagiarized a 1983 Italian disco tune when he wrote his 1995 hit “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” The original song by Bruno Bergonzi and Michele Vicino, “Takin’ Me to Paradise,” appeared on a number of dance compilations in the early 80s. But how convincing is the evidence? Are we to really believe that Prince — a prodigiously creative musician who has probably written more music than anyone else alive — stole someone else’s tune? Continue reading →