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Plagiarism Question- Mentioning a Song Within a Song and Using the Riff
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
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Plagiarism Question- Mentioning a Song Within a Song and Using the Riff

Let's say I write a country tune and make mention of Merle Haggard's song "Fightin' Side of Me" in one of the verses, followed by a short 7 note riff that was in the original song. Would that be considered copyright infringement? Probably a question for a music lawyer, but can someone shed a little light on this grey area?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darmento View Post
Probably a question for a music lawyer...
Yep. Wouldn't want you to turn 21 in prison, doin' life without parole...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darmento View Post
Probably a question for a music lawyer
Didn't the Red Hot Chili Peppers have a song that ended in the opening lick for Hey Joe? I don't think they got sued by Billy Roberts or the Jimi Hendrix boffins (and they'll sue ya for looking sideways at a Hendrix CD in a shop without buying it).

So, maybe you'll be fine and everyone will say "wow what a great homage to Merle", when your song's out.

Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Yep. Wouldn't want you to turn 21 in prison, doin' life without parole...
Bwahaha!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hello people View Post
Didn't the Red Hot Chili Peppers have a song that ended in the opening lick for Hey Joe? I don't think they got sued by Billy Roberts or the Jimi Hendrix boffins (and they'll sue ya for looking sideways at a Hendrix CD in a shop without buying it).

So, maybe you'll be fine and everyone will say "wow what a great homage to Merle", when your song's out.

I don't know that RHCP tune. I've tried scrubbing the net and I can't find a straight answer on this topic. I'm basically making mention of the artist, song and using his "signature" short lick to end the tune.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darmento View Post
Let's say I write a country tune and make mention of Merle Haggard's song "Fightin' Side of Me" in one of the verses, followed by a short 7 note riff that was in the original song. Would that be considered copyright infringement? Probably a question for a music lawyer, but can someone shed a little light on this grey area?
I wrote a song with "Twist and Shout" and "Let's Give 'em Something to Talk About" in the same verse. It was up on iTunes for a year and still sitting on Soundcloud. Nary a negative word. Anyway I don't think they can come after you for lyrics whatsoever, but a riff or a melody could be a different story. There are plenty of instances of artists and estates going after other artists for lifting riffs or melodies.

(2nd verse....)
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
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Song titles are not protected by copyright - which is a long-established precedent. The legal theory underpinning this is that the titles of works are too short to meet the threshold required for protection. Theoretically, a sufficiently long title could, therefore, be protected - but in practise it's never happened, and I don't know that anyone has ever even tried to claim protection for a title. In the space of about a year in the early 80s there were no fewer than three entirely different songs called "The Power of Love".

But those 7 notes are a different story. Unless you're making money off it, though, all they could do is require you to take 'em out. Even 50% of zero is still zero - which is why the only lawsuits you read about relate to hit songs.
Old 3 weeks ago
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A copyright protects the "creative expressions of ideas" if it can be shown that this was someone elses expression of an idea there can be a problem. Basically 'Copyright' is designed to prevent people from copying a creative work.This can include melody, chord progression, rhythm, lyrics and/or anything that reflects even a small piece of creativity and originality. If a song is deemed to be riding the coat tails of a copyrighted work for gain this could be a problem too. Some people have gotten around it by mentioning kind of a news item / fair use thing by mentioning a few things (reflecting the times etc.) in a song - its always a tough call.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
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Originally Posted by Owen L T View Post
But those 7 notes are a different story. Unless you're making money off it, though, all they could do is require you to take 'em out. Even 50% of zero is still zero - which is why the only lawsuits you read about relate to hit songs.
Under US law, aren't there also statutory damages that can be awarded regardless of whether any money was made?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
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Looks like the previous posts put a lot of light on your grey area. Why not just contact his estate and ask for permission...
Old 3 weeks ago
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Sometimes if the song is good enough it creates enough notoriety (exposure) to make some money - where a deal can be struck too. I knew a few people who have done this. But it is dicey territory. It is tough to sue empty pockets; but there is always a possibility to strike a deal.

Go through the motions of contacting the 'owners' of the intellectual property and see where it goes. here is some of the info:

here is Sony ATC contact info: https://www.sonyatv.com/en/contact
here is EMI Nashville: https://www.umgnashville.com/

The best route is like OP said is to track down the estate and just make a request -
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
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Real world: Estates aren't bothering themselves with questions like this from unsolicited unknowns. If the song isn't big, no one will care one bit (except an algorithm which may take something down automatically), direct covers get posted 100s/day every day on socials without issue. And if the song ends up big, you'll reach a fair enough settlement deal and get lots of press and have Gearslutz threads about you. You'll only find yourself upset if you think you should have it all and that the settlement is out of line (IE Blurred Lines), which isn't the case here. They'll only be upset if you refuse to settle fairly and drag things out. To me, the answer is clear.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
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My Favorite Things remake cover had to give I believe over 90%.
Old 3 weeks ago
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Originally Posted by s wave View Post
My Favorite Things remake cover had to give I believe over 90%.
Yep, that her team took without negotiation because it could have been 100%. The Verve/Rolling Stone case was pretty gangster, they took 100%, but that was early into sampling culture. There's definitely the risk someone will try to take it all if your record is a smash hit.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
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I recall the short flute melody in Men at Work’s “Down Under” warranted a substantial payout 30 years after the fact due to its similarities to the Kookabura folk song.
Old 3 weeks ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Yep, that her team took without negotiation because it could have been 100%. The Verve/Rolling Stone case was pretty gangster, they took 100%, but that was early into sampling culture. There's definitely the risk someone will try to take it all if your record is a smash hit.
So true the pros and cons of both sides. Sometimes if the owner thinks the new version of the song will create a certain amount of revenue for the the older composition they will actually be a 'little' lenient and offer a slight bit more of the percentage - in hopes that the new percentage holders will put more money, time and effort into it.

Trust becomes probably the main fulcrum of the decision making - why get tangled up? if these guys do something screwy - is often in their minds.

Being VERY CLEAR about what your motives are; and exactly what you are going to do with the granted rights is paramount. (professionality and an escape clause etc) I have not been turned down when asking for use yet. (knock on wood) Although it hasn't been that many times. I do not think I ever refused to let someone use any my intellectual property.

[Can you imagine if something stupid and absurd happens; like getting a classic - putting it up on a platform and then claiming the original is infringing my gosh - trust]
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Real world: Estates aren't bothering themselves with questions like this from unsolicited unknowns. If the song isn't big, no one will care one bit (except an algorithm which may take something down automatically), direct covers get posted 100s/day every day on socials without issue. And if the song ends up big, you'll reach a fair enough settlement deal and get lots of press and have Gearslutz threads about you. You'll only find yourself upset if you think you should have it all and that the settlement is out of line (IE Blurred Lines), which isn't the case here. They'll only be upset if you refuse to settle fairly and drag things out. To me, the answer is clear.
EDIT: ha, I didn't even see that you'd mentioned the Verve elsewhere in this thread. Will leave the rest of my comment for posterity, though.


If the song ends up big, there's a pretty good chance of getting shafted! The Stones just recently signed the copyright of Bittersweet Symphony back over after 25 years, which made the news here in the UK. The deal there was, the Verve had reached a deal with the Stones' manager to use, I think, 5 notes from an orchestral version of one of their tracks, instead used 7 notes, and Andrew Loog-Oldham said "you can pull your album off the shelf, or sign over 100% of the royalties" for that track - and they basically had no choice but to sign over 100% of the royalties. Which was pretty brutal.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Owen L T View Post
EDIT: ha, I didn't even see that you'd mentioned the Verve elsewhere in this thread. Will leave the rest of my comment for posterity, though.


If the song ends up big, there's a pretty good chance of getting shafted! The Stones just recently signed the copyright of Bittersweet Symphony back over after 25 years, which made the news here in the UK. The deal there was, the Verve had reached a deal with the Stones' manager to use, I think, 5 notes from an orchestral version of one of their tracks, instead used 7 notes, and Andrew Loog-Oldham said "you can pull your album off the shelf, or sign over 100% of the royalties" for that track - and they basically had no choice but to sign over 100% of the royalties. Which was pretty brutal.
Shaftings of that magnitude are rare, that's an old one from when the music world was much less familiar with and comfortable with sample/interpolation culture. Signing it back over is at least partly as a reflection of new attitudes toward sample culture.

But yep, there's a risk. To me if you add up 1. the likelihood of a it being a smash hit and 2. the likelihood of being shafted at that point, then we're talking jackpot lottery odds. Expect to negotiate and give up a chunk, but that's a far cry from being shafted.

In 2019, sample/interpolation/cover songs get posted at a rate of 100s/day on social media and we're talking about the Verve running into an issue in the 90s.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
But yep, there's a risk. To me if you add up 1. the likelihood of a it being a smash hit and 2. the likelihood of being shafted at that point, then we're talking jackpot lottery odds. Expect to negotiate and give up a chunk, but that's a far cry from being shafted.
The huge likelihood that you'll fly under the radar doesn't make it right, though.

And if you do beat the odds and have some success and get noticed by the infringee, sure, you can ask for forgiveness rather than permission. But that forgiveness will cost you.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
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What is really interesting (because nothing is totally illegal depending on the different jurisdictions) is the Caribbean area. They spearheaded the 'OK to sample' culture. Many top local stars would actually allow songs/beats/melodies be available to aspiring artists and encouraged it. New artists could cut a record or sell them etc. It was a 2 way street - putting the new artist on the map - and furthering the established artist as well. It came (and is coming) to a head when the overseas legal jurisdictions began ovelapping. Such as: an American label picks up an artist and wanted to garner all the rights... it would back lash back into the Caribbean.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
The huge likelihood that you'll fly under the radar doesn't make it right, though.

And if you do beat the odds and have some success and get noticed by the infringee, sure, you can ask for forgiveness rather than permission. But that forgiveness will cost you.
Yeah its a gray area. Its gonna cost you either way though, just plan for it if you have success.

Had the producer for Old Town Road sought to seek permission from Trent Reznor before putting that beat out into the world, he'd have never gotten a response (he was an 18 year old kid selling beats.).

But he sampled it, sold the beat for $30 to an unknown at the time, and the song ended up a smash hit, making him the producer of the Billboard #1 song for 15 weeks and an in-demand producer now, with Trent Reznor signing off on it (and collecting his percent) once it got big.

This seems to be the new way. Established artists aren't sweating people having fun being creative with their existing work, and will come take their fair share for whatever ends up making decent money. Right or wrong is up for judgement, but that's what "is" the culture now, which seems to be in a pretty solid place IMO, maximizing both creativity without restriction, and financial earnings for everyone. Trent made MILLIONS off that kid sampling him: creative fun was had with Trent's work, and when it paid off everyone got their fair share.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by s wave View Post
What is really interesting (because nothing is totally illegal depending on the different jurisdictions) is the Caribbean area. They spearheaded the 'OK to sample' culture. Many top local stars would actually allow songs/beats/melodies be available to aspiring artists and encouraged it. New artists could cut a record or sell them etc. It was a 2 way street - putting the new artist on the map - and furthering the established artist as well. It came (and is coming) to a head when the overseas legal jurisdictions began ovelapping. Such as: an American label picks up an artist and wanted to garner all the rights... it would back lash back into the Caribbean.
Yeah Trent Reznor released his last few records under Creative Commons. Calvin Harris gave out a bunch of his acapellas for free use. There are other examples. The world is coming to terms with the new social media "everyone shares" culture.

It turns out to be a pretty fair two-way street. Any time money is made the sampled/interpolated artist can come collect, and meanwhile their music is being reused and shared creatively and openly which is fun for everyone and in the spirit of artistic creativity.
Old 3 weeks ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Yeah Trent Reznor released his last few records under Creative Commons. Calvin Harris gave out a bunch of his acapellas for free use. There are other examples. The world is coming to terms with the new social media "everyone shares" culture.

It turns out to be a pretty fair two-way street. Any time money is made the sampled/interpolated artist can come collect, and meanwhile their music is being reused and shared creatively and openly which is fun for everyone and in the spirit of artistic creativity.
What is so funny is how things are going the opposite way - crazy - U.S. are becoming more like the Caribbean and the Caribbean becoming more like U.S. It's just not music industry LOL
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
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What is so funny is how things are going the opposite way - crazy - U.S. are becoming more like the Caribbean and the Caribbean becoming more like U.S. It's just not music industry LOL
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