You are viewing a snapshot of Episode 166. Full episode here.

Copyright Infringement Lawsuits & Opinions on Heartless Bastards

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:

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.