This has been happening to me all too much lately. I hear a new song on the radio, and I think "Wait a minute, I know that song." So yes, there have been chord sequences that have been abused, and lyrics repeated to no end ("Put your hands in the air, and wave them like you just don't care"), but I have been hearing way too many songs, which have an exact replica (melody and harmony) of another hit, of not too long ago. I guess if you see something successful, copy it and take the credit for it, why not? Here is a list of songs I've noticed, ranked by flagrancy of theft:
  1. Kylie Minogue's new single, Please Stay actually inspired me to write this node. What the hell is this? Remember Belinda Carlisle's Circle in the Sand?
    Kylie sings, "No matter what, and no regret, I'll do all that I can...", where Belinda sings, "And it will be a part of me, our love is all we need." Note for bloody note.

  2. Robbie Williams - Supreme. Would he even bother to deny the entire verse is exactly the same as I will Survive (by Gloria Gaynor)? The chords are the same, even his melody is almost note to note identical. He even says: "You will survive" just when the original song says "I will survive"! You're not fooling anyone, Robbie.

  3. Britney Spears couldn't find anyone better to rip off than the Backstreet Boys. OH MY GOD! In Lucky, she goes into a falsetto-ish bit which seems to have been forced into the song to make it cool. She sings "Then why do these tears come at night?" to the exact same tune, (and chords) as "And that makes you larger than life." (Except for the last note or two).

  4. Sonique - Sky. The verse is the same as the chorus of David Bowie and the Pet Shop Boys' Hello Spaceboy. Well, at least Sonique went back a few years for her rip-off. Maybe she expects teenagers not to remember music of two years ago.
    (If you're having trouble comparing - compare "So bye bye love" and "So come with me".

  5. Not from the current charts, but: Who stole from whom? Depeche Mode's Master and Servant has almost exactly the same melodic line on the keyboard as The Cure's Let's Go To Bed. I always thought The Cure stole from DM, but that's probably because I heard Master and Servant first.
Mind you, those first four! are all from songs that are in the top 20 in many countries right now!

P.S. If I muddled up any lyrics, I'm sorry, I don't have Kylie's exciting new album, it's what I could make out from MTV.


P.S.2 bigmouth_strikes has just informed me that Max Martin wrote both the Britney Spears and BackDoor Boys songs. Can he be stealing from himself? If it's the same person, that makes it even more pathetic, I think.

P.S.3 the above was written at least a day before Accipiter added his insight. I hate it when people don't read to the end before writing a reply, and even more when they reply in the node body when a /msg (like bigmouth_strikes wrote) is enough. Oh well....

P.S. 4 achtung man says "Ironically enough, BsB has also covered Britney. "The Call" uses the exact same chord progression for the chorus as "Hit me Baby One More Time". Again, Max Martin copies himself.

P.S. 5 Matt_t_hat says might I point out the famous: "(everywhere you go) I'll be watching you" with "I'll be missing you" which other than a slight change is identical to the former!

More examples of seemingly unfair use:

Yes! We Have No Bananas!

"Is It Scary" by Michael Jackson on album Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory In The Mix has a verse identical to a verse in "Ghosts" by Michael Jackson on the same album except for "ghastly" instead of "ghostly" in one place. (Source: http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:www.exclusivelymj.com/BOTDF.html+ghastly+smell+around) "Is It Scary" also uses the same chord progression (E+B E+C E+C# E+C) as the theme from James Bond.

Video game music rips off popular themes also. In Acclaim's Forsaken 64, the "Pure Power" track has a riff disturbingly similar to the Bond theme's. (This may be considered inspired instead of stolen.) And much of FaceBall 2000's theme song (get the SPC at http://www.zophar.net/zsnes/spc) is taken note-for-note from the old Sesame Street theme.

"Tribal Dance" by 2 Unlimited, "Jump" by The Movement, and the first Mission: Impossible remix (not Limp Bizkit's M:I 2 version) all sound like each other. The theme from freepuzzlearena (available at http://pineight.com/fpa.htm ) parodies this by combining all three pieces seamlessly.


MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE
tempo=400
55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 58 0 60 0
55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 53 0 54 0
55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 58 0 60 0
55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 55 0 0 53 0 54 0

0 0 0 0 0 0

TRIBAL DANCE
tempo=500
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 66 0 63 0
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 70 0 68 0
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 66 0 63 0
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 70 0 70 0 68 0 68 0
65

0 0 0 0 0 0

JUMP
tempo=520
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 68 0 70 0
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 70 0 68 0
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 68 0 70 0
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 70 0 68 0
65

0 0 0 0 0 0

DOSARENA THEME
tempo=520
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 66 0 63 0  #t.d
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 70 0 68 0  #t.d/jump
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 0 68 0 70 0  #jump/m.i
65 0 0 65 0 0 65 0 63 0 63 0 64 0 64 0 #m.i/t.d
65

0 0 0 0 0 0
[player available at noding music].

As is noted in the example for Six Degrees of Facial Bacon, The Verve were sued for using too much of a Rolling Stones sample (from the orchestral version of "The Last Time") in "Bitter Sweet Symphony," resulting of the transfer of all rights in the song to the Rolling Stones' people. (A Google search for rolling stones last time verve symphony will pull up references.)

Fair use, or copyright theft?


Clone wrote: "Things will clear up when the copyright on old tracks goes." Wrong. The precedent set by the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act indicates that copyright won't go, in the United States at least.

Britney Spears couldn't find anyone better to rip off than the Backstreet Boys. OH MY GOD! In Lucky, she goes into a falsetto-ish bit which seems to have been forced into the song to make it cool. She sings "Then why do these tears come at night?" to the exact same tune, (and chords) as "And that makes you larger than life." (Except for the last note or two).

First of all, Britney Spears didn't rip off anyone (Except maybe the Rolling Stones, but I don't consider that a ripoff....)

Britney's song "Lucky" (Track 7, Oops!...I did it again) was co-written by Max Martin. Not coindidentally, "Larger than Life" was ALSO co-written by Max Martin. You assume one artist is ripping off another, but Britney didn't write "Lucky".

Max Martin didn't rip himself off, either. He just has a discernable writing style.

So tell me....one single line of one single song makes it "Blatently Stolen" from another? "Lucky" and "Larger than Life" are nothing like each other.


Wouldn't it make sense to REMOVE the incorrect parts of a node, rather than say "Oh, by the way, the writeup you just read? This one part is wrong. That's wrong too. Oh, and that's incorrect as well."

GirlsDontLikeMe makes my point, precisely. Just because one line sounds a lot like a line from another song, that makes it blatently ripped?

One song that has bothered me for a long time definitely isn't something along the lines of a "minor similarity due to the fact that there is a limited amount of chord progressions in the world". The intro to the song King of Swing, one of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's entries into the swing craze of the late 1990's, is a direct and blatant ripoff of The Pogues' Gridlock from their 1989 album Peace and Love. The only difference? King of Swing adds lyrics. The drums and horns are almost exactly the same.

The Pogues are not given any writing credits in the liner notes of both BBVD albums on which the song appears (the first was a self-released CD that, I believe, is no longer available). Back around '95 or '96, a friend of mine brought up this issue to one of the members at a concert. Said friend was asked to leave. Afterwards, he sent the drummer a couple of e-mails regarding the subject. The response was a claim of ignorance regarding the matter and a promise to get back to him when he knew more about it. No further e-mails were received.

But that's showbiz, I guess.

One striking case is Sheryl Crow's All I wanna do, a blatant copy from Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the middle with you.

One case I heard about, but didn't agree with, was Slade's Let's call it quits which was just a standard rocker. Apparently somebody sued them over copyright infringement and won, after which they had to withdraw the single which was already hitting the charts. If that song was a copyright violation so are thousands of songs like it.

For a more creative case of ripping off the elders, see Blur.

If a song is too blatantly stolen, it tends to end up in a court case. Asides from these two, there are a number of cases of unlicenced samples resulting in loss of profit. The most unfortunate of these was that of White Town, a band consisting of one man in the suburbs with a few keyboards and an Amiga, who's superb #1 single Your Woman contained a distinctive horn sample at the end of each verse. Music journalists pinned the sample down to a 1930's Al Bowlly jazz track, tracked down Bowlly (or those in charge of his estate, not sure) and told him. He subsequently sued, taking most of the profits from the single, even though he would have certainly never heard of it unless the journos told him. The Lo Fidelity Allstars also got in trouble for sampling Cannonball by The Breeders on their track Disco Machinegun, having to recall all copies three days after the release (a new version without the sample was released as Blisters on my Brain). I'm sure there are a million more cases like this, hence the creation of things like The Droplift Project.

One of the problems with the nodes above is we're getting into look and feel areas of musical copyright. To my knowledge, a band can sound as much as any other as they like, provided they don't actually copy a tune. To use Wire as an example again, godawful Britpoppers Menswear had an (admittedly rather good) hit single with Daydreamer, which aped Wire in almost every regard, right down to delivery. But it wasn't a Wire track, and wasn't an infringement of copyright. Similarly, the track Rivers by Sugar Ray, taken from the Scream 2 soundtrack, sounds so much like Weezer it's frankly uncanny, and any =w= fan who uses Napster will notice this track mislabelled in a million MP3 collections (I think this is most likely a tribute though, especially seeing as =w='s creative force is called Rivers Cuomo).

Things will clear up when the copyright on old tracks goes. Probably. Although yerricde informs me that, in the US at least, this may never happen, thanks to the sonny bono copyright extension act.



In light of Bones' closure of the node, some of the more subjective parts of this node have been painfully gouged out with a penknife. Just the facts, ma'am.

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