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Influence And Similarity?


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I hope it's not against the rules to ask this but no one has been able to give me answers and its a question desperatley burning at my mind as a songwriter... What happens when you realize a melody of yours is "similiar" to another song? Can any song melody ever be completley 100% original and what defines the lines between influenced/similiar and ripoff? And to what extent can your music be safely influenced by another band/artist (also noting the fact that a lot of melodies/instrumentals/styles nowadays sound exactly the same on the radio anyway).

I've also noticed some artists get away with what sounds like flat out copies and some get sued for the littlest similiar parts... Huh.

:-)

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Hey

Well you are looking for a definitive answer in an area that is pretty blurred. It is not a matter of breaking a law so much as the original artist (or owner of their work) noticing the similarity and then deciding to pursue the infringement. That said some aspects are considered a criminal infringement.

Also worth noting is that perhaps the reason many are not sued is that they have a prior agreement with the publisher and writer of the original work. Remember that the law suits are for unauthorized use.

There are two main judges regarding similarity: the courtroom; the public.

In the US the courtroom is governed by US Copyright Law : http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html

Internationally copyright is governed by the Berne Convention (board member Lazz wrote an excellent series of article on Songstuff about Copyright, and well worth a read.)

You will probably find some of the answers here Music and Copyright

In essence there are two parts... quantitative measurements (so many bars having the same melody etc) and qualitative (does it sound like something to a jury). The first can pretty firmly be defined but the last part is far more subjective making an absolute answer difficult to give.

I think a good judge is... if YOU think it sounds like something else, then others will probably make the same connection. You also know what you listened to at the time you wrote it and will also know how big an influence another act was, and where you may have taken riffs, melodies etc from

there are two main defences: evidence that you created your work independently and or prior to the work you supposedly copied, and fair use, also a wooly area!

So to answer your question.... I can't :P

Cheers

John

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I was at a music thing some while back and one of the performers sang her new song and I thought carefully about whether to mention that it sounded VERY much like a Joni Mitchell song (For the Roses if I remember). I decided on balance to do so but felt it seemed a really critical thing to say - even though other people might have noticed the similarity.

I have since met the person again and I believe she re-worked the song in the light of that and was not too upset I'd mentioned it.

As an aside, I always reckoned the Don Mclean album with American Pie on has basically only one tune on it and chodrd progression - can you be done for plagiarising yourself? :)

Edited by Nick
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