Courtesy of Creative Commons

Recently two major artists, Radiohead and Lana Del Rey, have been at odds with each other. Del Rey said Radiohead had filed a copyright infringement lawsuit due to similarities between her song “Get Free” and their song “Creep.” According to Del Rey, Radiohead was offered 40 percent of publishing revenue, but they did not accept and insisted on 100 percent. Plagiarism in the music industry is a finicky subject. There are only 12 notes that make up the standard chromatic music scale; artists attempt to create unique melodies and harmonies to differentiate songs from one another while constrained by these 12 notes. Nevertheless, similarities have been spotted in songs from time to time. Such examples include:

Chuck Berry vs. John Lennon (1973)

John Lennon stated he drew inspiration from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” for the Beatles song “Come Together.” Oddly enough, it wasn’t Berry who went after Lennon. It was actually Morris Levy, who owned the rights to “You Can’t Catch Me.” Levy claimed that Lennon had only slowed the song down, and also used some of the lyrics from the original song. The case was eventually settled out of court.

Vanilla Ice vs. Queen and David Bowie (1990)

Vanilla Ice famously sampled “Under Pressure” in his song “Ice Ice Baby.” Initially, Ice made a claim that the melodies of the two songs are different due to the fact that he added a separate beat in addition to the sampled bassline. After the case was settled out of court, he claimed it was simply a joke and that he was not to be taken seriously.

The Verve vs. The Rolling Stones (1997)

The Verve sampled a part of “The Last Time” by the Stones in their song “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” Originally, they made a deal to split the royalties 50/50 in exchange for the sample, but The Stones manager, Allen Klein, accused The Verve of sampling more of the song than promised. This led to The Verve giving up all the publishing rights for the song that had become their biggest hit.

Sam Smith vs Tom Petty (2014)

Tom Petty’s publisher notified Sam Smith that “Stay With Me” bore striking similarities with “I Won’t Back Down” by Petty, specifically the choruses. However, this dispute ended rather amicably with Petty receiving 12.5 percent of the royalties and offering words of encouragement to Smith stating, “these things can happen.”

Robin Thicke vs. Marvin Gaye (2015)

Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was deemed as plagiarism of Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.” This case is already seen as a landmark case due to it setting a precedent that the “vibe” of a song can be part of copyright protection. The Gaye family received 5.3 million dollars and 50 percent of the song’s royalties.

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