Men at Work got legally spanked recently over their lifting of a melody for the flute riff in their old hit "Down Under".
Damages have not yet been awarded, but are expected to be on the order of half of the profits that the song ever made.
The thing that struck me was that apparently the band never claimed that they didn't lift the melody, but argued rather that the rights-holder didn't actually own the song. They seem to claim that the author GAVE the song to the Girl Guides, and that her later sale of the song to a publisher was therefore void... (Which to me would only mean that they owe the money to the Girl Guides...)
I think there's a lesson here about GETTING CLEARANCE if you know you are borrowing. I'd guess that someone cut a corner to save a little money back in the 80s, and that corner will now be paid for many times over.
"Borrowing" a measure or 2 of someone else's song seems a bit borderline for plagiarism and IMO a lawsuit probably wouldn't even have been considered prior to the Whiter Shade of Pale verdict. I guess it depends on how important to the song the lifted passage is considered.
Did Jeff Beck get permission for "Mary Had a Little Lamb", "What's It All About Alfie", the theme from "Beverly Hillbillies", and whatever else made it's way into "Beck's Boogie"?
I agree in principle. What I see as a quagmire, is the chance that this will start a cottage industry of publishers aquiring rights to older compositions, and then going on forensic hunting expeditions for songs that might contain similarities.
For example, I would bet that "All You Need Is Love" has some actionable stuff in it, that some enterprising publisher could leverage a payday from....
"...but ma, audio engineering IS gainful employment!..."
"...If I wuz at that club where Miles played one note I would have bounced ONE BOTTLE off his shiny fucking coconut. What? He's Phil Glass now?..." -Slipperman
"...never attribute to magic, that which can be explained by conspiracy."
Much like the old adage of punters leaving concerts not humming or whistling the colour green from the lightshow...
As important a part of the song the flute line is - which the "offending" parts are the second and fourth phrases - the punters at large sporting events, or in the pub, or at the concert or wherever don't sing/hum/whistle the flute part.
They sing the chorus...'cos it's got y'know...words.
That's the hook.
If they are going to spank them for 60% of the profits for the flute line, imagine how big the payout would be if Men At Work had lifted the chorus?
The proportions seem a bit off to me.
Don't forget, we are all engaged in a battle to the death against mediocrity.
The best radio mic system that money can buy is ALMOST as good as a $20 cable.
One of the most important things to remember about sound is:
'Sucks' is always conducted better than 'Rules'. - Pimp-X wisdom
Never underestimate the power of stupid - Blackie C (RIP)
Ego and talent seldom go hand in hand... Talent and humble on the other hand... - Zoesch
Weedy ignores this simple bit of glaring obviousness because he is an "ELECTRIC BASS GUITARIST"(coughcough)
and views the kick drum as a "bass riff rhythmic pattern suggestion generator" - Slipperman
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Join Date Nov 2006
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Re: Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree...
yes, but the point is we've ALL been there I suspect where someone has the bright idea to quote or reference some other record or song... and you HAVE to ask yourself if it's legal and if it's worth what it's going to cost
they made a determination and WERE aware of the lift
they now pay the consequences
I don't agree that you can ever say what's important even to 'the punters'
Totally with Weedy here.
If it's not important why is it there ?
The issue of claiming it this late smells bad, especially since the author has died and won't see any benefit in the case. But nevertheless, imagine if the quote is your song. Doesn't matter how popular it is, on the contrary.
I often wonder how it works for stuff like the White Stripes riff off "Seven nation army" which has become an anthem at enormo football games, concerts and huge festivals in Europe. It's a spontaneous crowd thing, and I'm guessing Jack doesn't get a part of the action even when it's a major event televised across continents such as the football world cup.
But if someone "quotes" it in a song in 20 years, why shouldn't Jack get compensation ?
"Happy Birthday to you" is not public domain and apparently continues to make Warner-Chappell an annual bundle of 2 million $.