Author Topic: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?  (Read 301 times)

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Offline GermanGuitarNoob

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The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« on: September 23, 2019, 02:34:55 am »
So. If you are interested in music I think you have heard of it: A christian rapper sued Katy Perry for plagiarism of her song Dark Horse and won the case. The results are many videos which are spreading panic that this is the equivalent of a company claiming normal words like "hello". Some are stating that the court basically ruled that the Minor Pentatonic belongs to the christian rapper now and that musicians or rather the companies behind them could even copyright chords now or even modes of tone like a piano on keynoard...

I know that this is about a simple progression of notes... but nothing more.

I have no legal background and I am not deep into music theory. I can not estimate how valid this panicking videos are. But this is getting on my nerves a bit  ;D

Maybe some of you can share their thought or even explain a bit more.

Offline 8livesleft

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2019, 07:17:28 am »
Yeah, it's tricky nowadays with so much stuff coming out.

I remember watching a movie called Rockstar with Wahlberg. Had some catchy tunes on it.

After a couple months, me and my friend were working on song ideas and I "came up" with this catchy riff. Then, lo-and-behold, another friend recognizes it as being very similar to the one in the movie. I didn't even realize that I copied the damn thing.

So, yeah, it can happen without our knowing it. And even then, there's only so much you can create especially with the Pop genre. Happy chord progressions and all that.

But that's interesting because blues is basically the exact same progression, same with those 5 notes you use with the blues...

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Online Majik

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2019, 11:05:35 am »
The problem here is the creeping scope of copyright. Every time one of these greedy law firms and artists wins one of these ridiculous cases, it sets a precedent which allows others to try to claim ownership of other artist's work.

The problem is it's now getting to the point where it's going to be impossible to release new music without being sued like this. And, to a degree, this fits right into the big music label's agenda as, with their back catalogues, they could claim ownership of pretty much anything new that comes out by finding some similarity with something in their catalogue.

Copyright was never supposed to do this. It started out as way to prevent exact duplication of creators work, granting them exclusive rights for copying, distribution, and adaptation but for a very limited period of time (originally it was 14 years).

(Historical note: many early copyright laws were originally created to give the church some power over what could be printed and distributed, this wikipedia article is worth a quick read.

Looking specifically at music: historically it has not been possible to claim copyright on a piece because it shares a chord progression, or a style. There's only a limited number of chord progressions possible in Western music, and all of them have already been used many, many time over. The "style" of the music is, to a large part, a function of the arrangement of a song; a song arranged for a philharmonic orchestra will sound different from the same song arranged for a Ska band. You cannot, historically, copyright style or genre because it's too broad.

You can copyright melody. However, historically, you've needed to show that the person you are accusing of copying has copied "substantial parts" of your melody. Again, there's only really 7 notes used in most Western songs. Not only are there limited number of ways to arrange them, but there are also many commonly used passages (or "riffs" if you want) that could be considered "public domain". That's so much the case that some of these are given names and are taught at music schools.

Also, the use of a particular instrument on a song generally cannot be copyrighted. That should be obvious.

Claiming copyright on any of these things would be crazy, right? Well that is, effectively, what this rapper did.

And the danger here is that this then sets a precedent for other law suits that claim ownership of style, chord progression, and themes.

So, how did this happen?

Well, it's due to the US legal system that allows the plaintiff to request a jury trial. A jury trial allows the plaintiff to load the jury with members who are specifically chosen to not know nothing about music, music theory, and music copyright. They could also select a jury based on their religious beliefs, given that the plaintiff was a Christian and the defendant, who is largely known as being "anti-Christian".

They then attempt to convince them that two songs "sound vaguely the same" by playing clips out of context and playing on the "anti-Christian" themes in the defendants song (which has absolutely nothing to do with the case).

Throw in an "expert" who seems to be willing to adjust his testimony if they pay him enough money, and you end up with this result.

IMO, this sort of "intellectual property" case should not be subject to jury trials. If they had held the case using a board of independently chosen experts (in music and copyright law) this case would have been thrown out within the first day.

Basically they are gaming the legal system for financial gain at the expense of musicians and the music industry as a whole.

if you can stomach another video, this one by Scott Neely is the best description I have seen of the technical side of the case:




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Offline nigec

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2019, 01:18:44 pm »
That's nuts
I can think of a few songs that sound similar, Oasis and the coca cola theme vs Shakermaker,  and TRex Get it on vs Cigarettes and Alcohol on the same album ::)
Demon's Eye vs Muse's Uprising
Where do you draw a line? you can be inspired by others, most of the death metal songs probably share similar palm muting and chords
Where's there's blame there's a claim, what a horrid culture
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Offline Drubbing

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2019, 02:20:24 pm »
Copyright has become a goldmine for the unscrupulous.

Aussie band Men at Work had a hit in the 80s, with Down Under. 37 years later, a small publishing companies buys the rights to some old Aussie folk tunes and thinks they spot a similarity in a few seconds of the flute solo and one of the songs they owned - Kookaburra. A song the original writer never bothered to register, but it formed part of her estate which they bought - for $6000AUD.

Lawyers move in as they sue for 60% of 37 years of royalties and same from future royalties, and get 5%. They got relatively little, but the fight cost both parties millions. So they both lost.

The song was about Australia selling out - mining, foreign ownership of land, and letting greedy people move in and turn things to crap. No irony was lost.

Offline nigec

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2019, 02:41:35 pm »
Tom Petty vs Sam Smith was another one I can think of


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Online Majik

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2019, 03:32:33 pm »
Change a note or two, and most modern metronomes would be "infringing".

Cheers,

Keith
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Offline GermanGuitarNoob

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2019, 12:57:35 am »
Cheers,

Keith

Thanks for all you have written. You shed some light.

I read a bit further on the Internet and the lawyers of Katy Perry will appeal this case. As I said: I have no legal beackground and I don´t know 100% how courts work in the US but could this be going before the Surpreme Court? There is no jury there. Or are their "lower" courts without a jury?  So maybe this is a chance.

She can keep Dark Horse on her Channel on Youtube because the case isn´t over yet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KSOMA3QBU0

Or is it possible that the next musician who gets sued based on this case wins his case?

Or maybe someone who has a song with this note pattern prior to 2008 could sue the christian rapper instead  ;D

In Germany we have no jurys at all. Exactly for this reason: There are no experts.


Offline LievenDV

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2019, 09:23:00 am »
The problem here is the creeping scope of copyright.

Great post Keith,

damn these grabbers ^^
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Offline agj

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Re: The Lawsuit of Katy Perry - The Death of Writing Music?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2019, 09:22:15 am »
I heard the new Kieth Urban song on BBC Radio 2 yesterday and thought there were striking resemblances to Thinking Out Loud, hardly surprising though as Ed Sheeran is on the writing credits, however didn't our Ed get in to trouble with the Marvin Gaye estate over Thinking Out Loud?  Also fairly recently a guy no-one had heard of filed a case against  Gaga and Co for The Shallow, claiming the G,A,B  note progression (I'm Falling) copied a part of a song he had on SoundCloud which up until making the claim had only something like 300 views.  I'm still very disappointed with Tom Petty for suing Sam Smith when he was on record as saying some songs just song similar in reference to RHCP Dani California (Mary Janes Last Dance) and The Strokes Last Night (American Girl)
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