Copyright Infringement

Copyright Infringement Lawsuits & Opinions on Heartless Bastards

What do Coldplay, Lil Wayne and George Harrison all have in common? They've all been sued for stealing music. This week Jim and Greg look at the history of copyright infringement lawsuits and talk about what happens when one artist accuses another accused of creative thievery.

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Music News

The Grammys may be the most well-known music awards, but the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics Poll is perhaps the best barometer of what was good in the world of music. The ballots are in for 2008, and among the almost 600 critics surveyed, TV on the Radio's Dear Science came out on top. As Jim explains, the critics often do it better, but the poll is not perfect, especially since the departure of longtime Pazz & Jop“Dean”Robert Christgau. Usually the Village Voice list is vastly different from the list of Grammy nominations, but this year there are some crossovers, especially in terms of singles. M.I.A's "Paper Planes" and Estelle's "American Boy" got top marks in Pazz & Jop, as well as a number of Grammy noms.

On January 20, President Barack Obama not only inherited 2 wars and a failing economy. He also inherited a pretty kick-ass record collection. According to a recent story in Rolling Stone, there are several hundred LP's in the White House basement, including Led Zeppelin IV, Let it Bleed and Rocket to Russia, all provided by the RIAA and marked with the presidential seal. The list of records was not always so cool though. During the Nixon administration, album artists included Pat Boone and John Denver. So, Jim and Greg want to volunteer their own services to make sure that the collection thrives in the year to come. They say: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country's record collection."

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Copyright Infringement

This week's feature is all about stealing…notes, that is. Throughout the history of recorded music, there have been a number of instances where one artist accuses another of plagiarism. As Jim and Greg discuss, creative thievery can be much more complicated than the bank kind. You have to consider issues of access, influence, song structure and production, not to mention greed and sour grapes.

So to wrap their heads around music copyright lawsuits, they first talk to attorney Charles Cronin about a recent lawsuit involving Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" and Joe Satriani's "If I Could Fly." Professor Cronin is a visiting fellow at Yale Law School and the manager of the Copyright Infringement Project at UCLA. He explains to Jim and Greg that while it may be unlikely that the members of Coldplay sat around jamming to Satriani's guitar licks, a jury might still feel they had access, even unconsciously. The melodic similarities are tiny, but evident. What may be harder for the plaintiff Satriani to prove is that the audience for his music was at all affected by the release of the Coldplay song.

If Satriani vs. Coldplay ever goes to trial, its verdict will no doubt be affected by precedents set in other landmark copyright cases. For a mini legal clinic, read up on these three major cases:

  • Mack vs. Harrison
  • Bridgeport vs. Combs
  • La Cienega Music vs. ZZ Top

To end their discussion on rock plagiarism, Jim and Greg go to one of the most absurd instances of legal action-that when one artist is sued over his own work. In Fantasy vs. Fogerty, the works in question are "Run Through the Jungle" by John Fogerty and "The Old Man Down the Road" by…you guessed it…John Fogerty. The Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman was accused of cribbing his own notes. Jim and Greg speak to Kenneth Sidle, the attorney who successfully defended Fogerty against his former publishing company in this case. Sidle agrees that major changes are needed in copyright laws and how they are handled in court.

reviewThe MountainThe Mountain available on iTunes

Heartless Bastards The Mountain

Next up Jim and Greg review The Mountain, the third album from Heartless Bastards. The heart and soul of the trio is singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Erika Wennerstrom. As Greg explains, the songs on this album are the result of Wennerstrom's break up with the band's former bassist, as well as her move to New York City. He thinks Wennerstrom has never sounded better, and also admires Mike McCarthy's production. Greg gives The Mountain a Buy It. Jimwishes he could be more enthusiastic. He loves a handful of the songs that are packed with Crazy Horse“stomp.”But he can only give the album a Try It.

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“Well... All Right”Buddy Holly

This week Greg adds a track to the Desert Island Jukebox. He uses his turn at the DIJ to mark the anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly. Holly, along with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens died in 1959. It was a momentous date in rock history, and in his short life, Holly was hugely influential. Greg describes how the singer and guitarist laid a blueprint for what we know today as rock and roll. One of Holly's most influential recordings is "Well… All Right," the song Greg chooses to add to the Jukebox. It's an intimate, stripped down production, and as you listen Greg thinks you'll hear the roots of albums like Rubber Soul.

Featured Songs

  1. The Kingsmen, Louie, Louie, Kingsmen in Person, Wand, 1963
  2. TV on the Radio, Halfway Home, Dear Science, 4AD, 2008
  3. John Denver, Rocky Mountain High, Rocky Mountain High, RCA, 1972
  4. Coldplay,“Viva La Vida,”Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, Parlophone 2008
  5. Joe Satriani, If I Could Fly, Is There Love in Space?, Epic, 2004
  6. Ronald Selle, Let It End, N/A, N/A, 1975
  7. The Bee Gees, How Deep Is Your Love, Saturday Night Fever, RSO, 1977
  8. George Harrison, My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass, Apple, 1970
  9. The Chiffons, He's So Fine, Laurie Golden Goodies, Laurie, 1967
  10. John Lee Hooker, Boogie Chillen, Meet Me Around the Corner, Past Perfect Silver Line, 1935
  11. ZZ Top, La Grange, Tres Hombres, London, 1973
  12. The Ohio Players, Singing in the Morning, Pain, Westbound, 1971
  13. Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die, Ready to Die, Big Beat, 1994
  14. John Fogerty, Vanz Kant Danz, Centerfield, Warner Bros., 1985
  15. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Run Through The Jungle, Cosmo's Factory, Fantasy, 1970
  16. Madlib, Dillalade Ride (Contact High), Beat Konducta, Stones Throw, 2009
  17. Heartless Bastards, The Mountain, The Mountain, Fat Possum, 2009
  18. Heartless Bastards, Out At Sea, The Mountain, Fat Possum, 2009

Footnotes

rollingstone.com White House Record Collection nytimes.com Coldplay vs. Santriani usc.edu Mack vs. Harrison google.com Bridgeport vs. Combs google.com La Cienega Music vs. ZZ Top theheartlessbastards.com Heartless Bastards