Plagiarism in Music: Notable Cases Throughout History

October 20th, 2020

Reading time about 13 min

Plagiarism in music, though nothing new even in the field of performing arts, has few distinct divisions:

  • Copying of the melody of the original composer and using it in someone’s original work.
  • Using portions of a melody and incorporating it to make a new one.
  • Unauthorized use of lyrics.
  • Intentional copying of musical ideas or motifs of a song also leads to plagiarism.
plagiarism in music, Music Notes

However, harmless the above steps may seem in the music industry; examples of plagiarism in music are quite significant. Often the alleged plagiarizer has not given the appropriate credit that the original creator deserves.

Why Has Plagiarism Increased in the Music Industry?

There was a time when ordinary people did not have access to music for free. The only option for having access was buying copies of cassettes, CDs, and other such things. With digital media advancement, downloading and uploading songs and tunes have been more comfortable than ever.

It has given rise to piracy and music plagiarism cases. With easy accessibility came the tendency of using content without writing credit. Often in the hurry of meeting deadlines, plagiarism in musicoccurs.

Creating a tune is a time taking process that includes artistic exploration. If it is time bounds curbing artistic freedom, the artist often indulges in plagiarism. 

Protecting the Right of the Creator

The right of the creators is protected by law. In most cases, the composers have copyright over their creation, which sheds the possibility of plagiarism in music.It limits people’s access over the songs and the melody and prevents unauthorized use of the melody.

plagiarism in music, music piracy

One effect of copyright in a plagiarized song is that the creator holds the right to take legal action against the offender, often causing the offender’s monetary loss.

How to Identify Plagiarism in Music?

The new-age technology is not all about cons. There are significant benefits of technology, especially for identifying examples of plagiarism in music.

  • The best way to find out whether a song is plagiarized or not is through the listeners. They are the best judges in this case. Reporting copyright infringement is the first step, which may go unnoticed by the original creators but not the listeners.
  • The availability of a plagiarism checker or the copyright checkers has made it easier to detect music plagiarism cases. The latest apps also provide users the option to use songs or tunes in the video.
plagiarism in music, copyright signs

Often this goes without the notice of the artist. Instances such as these are examples of unintentional plagiarism. Such apps should come with such a disclaimer that will alert the users.

Are There Real Examples of Plagiarism in Music?

Music, like any other art form, is solely dependent on the creativity of the creator. It gives people the freedom of self-expression, which demands originality. However, the examples of plagiarism in music tell a completely different story.

Notable Plagiarism Cases in Songs Throughout History:

  1. “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison Created Controversy

The ex-Beatle member George Harrison came out with a great number in 1970 called “My Sweet Lord,” but soon he found out that the song’s resemblance with the 1962 hit “He’s so fine” by The Chiffons is uncanny.

Many plagiarism cases in music like this one have been dragged to court, where lengthy and exhausting procedures were held to determine whether the plagiarism song was intentional or accidental plagiarism.

  1. “Come Together,” by John Lennon Faced Copyright Violation

Many iconic singers have also been dragged into this never-ending process of the accusation of copyright violation. John Lennon’s “Come Together” from the album” Abbey Road” falls into this category, which has been compared to Chuck Berry’s “You can’t catch me” because of the very similar pattern rhythm.

An attempt was made to settle the entire event outside the court. However, this did not turn out as expected, and legal steps were taken against Morris Levy, the song publisher of Chuck Berry.

  1. Coldplay for “Viva La Vida”

Guitar legend Joe Satriani accused the famous band Coldplay for their song “Viva La Vida.” The same song got Coldplay into loggerheads with a US band Creaky Boards. Luckily the case did not proceed further in the court. The case was dismissed, which led the singers to settle it outside the court.

  1. John Fogerty, Accused of Self-Plagiarism

Strangely enough, John Fogerty self-plagiarized his creation, only. He defended himself from the accusation by his old record label. John Fogerty won the case.

  1. Oasis for “Shakermaker”

Oasis came out with their hit solo “Shakermaker” in the year 1994. It did not take people much time before realizing that the melody is very familiar.

The song has a very similar tone, a Coke commercial song known as “I’d like to teach the world to sing” presented by the “The New Seekers.” Out of court settlement resolved the issue, with some half a million dollars if the sources are to believe!

  1. The Collaboration of Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke Became Controversial

A collaboration between Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke made a massive opening with its vibrant video but could not enjoy the popularity for very long. Marvin Gaye’s family claimed that the track had much in common with his “Got to give it up,” released in 1977.

The process which followed the reporting of copyright infringement was unexpected and surprising to both the stars.

  1. Elastica Made Headlines For An Uncanny Inspiration

Justine Frischmann’s uptown funk band Elastica had stirred up quite a controversy when one of their hits was inspired by the classic song “Three Girl Rhumba” by the “Wire.” It was a close call for the group. 

Final Takeaways

Taking inspiration from other artists is nothing new in the music industry. A similar thought pattern or idea is also acceptable, given that artists often may come up with similar creative ideas. But there are end numbers of plagiarism examples in music where some artists have been accused of content theft more than once. Many such cases have been settled out of court.

Love what you read? ❤️

Subscribe to our newsletter