Stolen or Original? Hear Songs From 7 Landmark Copyright Cases.
There’s an unsourced maxim that music industry executives like to cite whenever another piracy lawsuit comes up.
The trial over Ed Sheeran’s Grammy-winning song “Thinking Out Loud” (2014) began Monday in federal district court in Manhattan, the latest in a long line of music copyright lawsuits. It goes back to at least 1844, when a New York judge heard a case for unauthorized duplication of the song “The Cot Beneath the Hill.” The plaintiff was awarded $625 in damages, according to the lawsuit. History database Maintained by jurist Charles Cronin.
For Sheeran, the stakes are much higher. He has been accused of copying a passage from Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” (1973). Gaye’s co-writer Ed Townsend’s family filed a lawsuit in 2017. If Sheeran is found guilty, a jury will set millions in damages.
Here are some of the most significant music copyright lawsuits of recent decades, along with excerpts from their recordings.
However, remember that comparing recordings alone can be difficult and misleading. In such cases, the only material that matters is the underlying structure of the song: the melody, chords, and lyrics that can be put down on paper. Elements specific to the performance captured in a particular recording, such as tempo or instrument timbre, are irrelevant.
Judges have to decide not only if one song copies another, but if the previous song is original and unique enough to be copyrighted.
“The problem with cases like this is that people ask the wrong questions,” said Joe Bennett, a professor at Berklee College of Music and a forensic musicologist who works in litigation. “They ask, ‘How similar is song B to song A?’ What they should ask is how original is song A?”
have understood? In that case, put on your headphones and judge for yourself.
Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music (1976)