Music Plagiarism
April 11, 2010 7:44 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of musical artists that have gotten away with plagiarism?

I'm looking for artists who sampled another artists music and/or lyrics without legal permission, and who never had to pay royalties, either because a lawsuit was never filled or the case was dropped.
To be sure, this is going to be a bit subjective, but the more obvious the plagiarism is, the better.

One example would be Coldplay taking Joe Satrioni's melody for their song "Viva La Vida".

I think another example is Eminem's sampling of Jacques Loussier's song "Pulsions" for his song "Kill you", but I can't seem to find any info on the outcome of the lawsuit.
posted by DZack to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wikipedia is your friend!
posted by amro at 7:47 PM on April 11, 2010


err... in my defense, that list is pretty limited. Any examples other than those, please!
posted by DZack at 7:51 PM on April 11, 2010


How rigidly does the use in question have to comply or not comply with copyright and similar law, and in what jurisdiction? "Getting away with something" is not a constant.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:54 PM on April 11, 2010


bob dylan

also: a site dedicated to naming samples - the breaks
posted by nadawi at 7:55 PM on April 11, 2010


The first two (and maybe three) Led Zeppelin albums are pretty good examples of this. Some of the material was possibly in the public domain, but a lot was not.
posted by The World Famous at 7:57 PM on April 11, 2010


The Beatles--I Feel Fine/Bobby Parker --Watch Your Step
ELO--Showdown / Marvin Gaye -- I heard it through the grapevine, Lou Christie - Lightning Strikes Again
Oasis - Don't Look Back in Anger / John Lennon - Imagine
Oasis - Half the World Away / Burt Bacharach - This Guy's in Love with You
Oasis - The Turning / Cliff Richard - Devil Woman
Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend / Rubinoos - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
posted by amsterdam63 at 8:04 PM on April 11, 2010


How rigidly does the use in question have to comply or not comply with copyright and similar law, and in what jurisdiction? "Getting away with something" is not a constant.

Regardless of the specific legal details, I'm looking for examples where

1) A piece was plagiarized (not necessarily in a legal-technicality sense, but in the sense that the riff/lyrics/song were clearly taken from another artist ) without the artist's permission, and
2) The plagiarizer in question never had to pay any compensation.
posted by DZack at 8:07 PM on April 11, 2010


whosampled
posted by gyusan at 8:15 PM on April 11, 2010


Pop-rock compositions, or segments thereof, that sound very ...borrowed... from earlier songs:

David Bowie; 1967 vs. Madonna; 2000
Sparks; 1974 vs. Morrissey; 1990
posted by applemeat at 8:16 PM on April 11, 2010


Well, there's about 30 years of dance music to account for. Much of that is unlicensed sampling, but I won't be able to supply a quant.
posted by rhizome at 8:16 PM on April 11, 2010


The Coldplay thing, AFAIK, was highly debatable.

About half a dozen artists claimed Coldplay plagiarized their song. It's a fairly simple melody, so it's not really a surprise that other artists have written similar-sounding songs...

Sampling, on the other hand, is incredibly common. Single albums can have thousands of samples.

Daft Punk are prolific samplers of 1970s funk. Some of their samples are pretty surprising...
posted by schmod at 8:30 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Previously, Girl Talk.
posted by applemeat at 8:35 PM on April 11, 2010


That Song Sounds Like has many examples of soundalikes.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2010


the chiffons - he's so fine / george harrison - my sweet lord
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:48 PM on April 11, 2010


and, of course, Ice Ice Baby
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:48 PM on April 11, 2010


I think that a lot of casual Yacht listeners of a certain age might not realize that See a Penny is a direct rip from the Rolling Stones' Miss You.

(With a little bit of Knight Rider mixed in...there's a couple possibilities.)

To which the performer replies:
Hah, we never knew until it was made, it wasn't conscious... Maybe now, by 2009, it's impossible to come up with any single melody that's completely original.
posted by redsparkler at 9:12 PM on April 11, 2010


Coldplay Scientists vs. Sum 41 Pieces

Rap / Hip Hop / Techno is filled with this.

A few off the top of my head... Daft Punk (not sure if they paid for rights or not though...)

Probably the best known lawsuit of sample use Greg Gillis aka DJ Girl Talk. Who I believe has yet to pay a dime in royalties. Previously on metafilter.

Previously on Metafilter

More...

Lily Allen


Game Inspired

posted by MechEng at 9:17 PM on April 11, 2010


Daft Punk pays for their samples. Thank you very much. Just because they are sampling doesn't mean it is plagiarism.

Goodness.
posted by lakerk at 9:26 PM on April 11, 2010


Well, this is just regarding one band, but The Smiths' Panic is quite clearly based on T Rex's Metal Guru. Their guitar intro to "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" was lifted from the Rolling Stones's cover of "Hitch Hike" and many, many, many of Morrissey's lyrics have been lifted from various sources (I can't find a page that lists all his lyrical steals, but they are numerous). I don't believe anyone has taken any legal action over any plagiarism issues with the band or Morrissey.
posted by bunglin jones at 9:26 PM on April 11, 2010


If the sampling thing is of interest, you might also want to explore the concept of the contrafact, especially in jazz (e.g. Rhythm changes).
posted by No-sword at 9:33 PM on April 11, 2010


Their guitar intro to "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" was lifted from the Rolling Stones's cover of "Hitch Hike"

Psh. The Stones' intro to "Hitch Hike" was ripped off far more effectively by The Velvet Underground for the song "There She Goes Again." The Smiths similarity is barely even an homage, whereas the Velvets completely ripped it off.
posted by The World Famous at 9:43 PM on April 11, 2010


Psh. The Stones' intro to "Hitch Hike" was ripped off far more effectively by The Velvet Underground for the song "There She Goes Again." The Smiths similarity is barely even an homage, whereas the Velvets completely ripped it off.
True, and Johnny Marr has said that he enjoyed the fact that most people thought he was ripping off the Velvets (because everyone was listening to VU & Nico in the 80s), and he could reply by saying "No, I'm ripping off the song that the Velvets ripped off".
posted by bunglin jones at 9:49 PM on April 11, 2010


the chiffons - he's so fine / george harrison - my sweet lord

George didn't get away with it.
posted by philip-random at 9:52 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


David Bowie, "Fame" vs. James Brown, "Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved)"

You've got to be doing something right if the Godfather of Soul is ripping you off.
posted by Vervain at 10:58 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do we have to limit ourselves to pop music? Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber blatantly stole some of his musicals' melodic lines from classical pieces and operas like "M. Butterfly" (by Puccini). There's a whole section in his Wikipedia bio about it, but it's incomplete. Of course, this is subjectve, but it's also commonly noticed by musical theatre fans and by classical/opera fans who hear either his works or the original works and then go OMG with decades of regularity.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:46 PM on April 11, 2010


Aggggh, of course that's "Madame Butterfly" by Puccini. "M. Butterfly" is by David Henry Hwang.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:48 PM on April 11, 2010


Men At Work got away with it for about as long as anyone I can think of, though the "Kookaburra" folks did finally catch up with them.

I don't think The KLF ever got busted for basing "What Time Is Love" on a riff from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Hans Zimmer's "Las Vegas" music from the Rain Man soundtrack is a dead-on swipe of Sisters of Mercy's "This Corrosion".

Oh yeah, and Paul Simon's ripoff of Los Lobos deserves a mention...
posted by Lazlo at 2:12 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Dead Kennedy's "Pull My Strings" is a rip of of a bunch of different elements of songs.
posted by rodgerd at 2:46 AM on April 12, 2010


Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed's Make 'Em Laugh from Singin' in the Rain is a complete rip-off of Cole Porter's song Be a Clown from The Pirate. Both films, of course, star Gene Kelly.

The Straight Dope has the lowdown on why Cole Porter didn't sue.
posted by so much modern time at 3:20 AM on April 12, 2010


I don't think you really have a good handle on what "plagiarism" is, actually.

Are you asking which songs SOUND LIKE other songs that came before them, or are you asking for songs in which the artist actually (and intentionally) stole whole melodies, lyrics, etc from other people?
posted by toomuchpete at 5:18 AM on April 12, 2010


Not the alphabet, jasondigitized, but rather the Alphabet Song, as an instructional song. But as it turns out, Twinkle Twinkle is not the origin of the tune anyway. The Alphabet Song was published in 1834, and the lyrics of Twinkle Twinkle were first published in English in 1801, but both use the melody of the French song "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman", which was first published in 1761, but is a folk song that was probably sung for many years before that publication.
posted by molecicco at 5:49 AM on April 12, 2010




Are you asking which songs SOUND LIKE other songs that came before them, or are you asking for songs in which the artist actually (and intentionally) stole whole melodies, lyrics, etc from other people?

The latter, though there obviously has to be some guessing as to whether or not the similarities are coincidental or intentional ripping off.
posted by DZack at 4:28 PM on April 12, 2010


From the Australian indie music scene -

* Shihad copied the riff to their crowd favourite "Home Again" from Mark Of Cain, who they used to tour with a bit. The Mark of Cain were pretty nonplussed, as apparently the riff to one of their crowd favourites comes from AC/DC.

* Harpoon by Jebidiah is very similar to a little known Something for Kate song (I think it's Slow off Answer to Both Your Questions). Something for Kate responded by saying that the Jebidiah version was better, and recording a cover of it and releasing dual singles with Jebidiah.
posted by spongeboy at 7:09 PM on April 12, 2010


Quoting in jazz. It is extremely common for jazz musicians to incorporate bits of well-known melodies into their playing. Within the jazz community, this is not considered stealing or plagiarism; it's simply quoting.

Also: the guitar lick on Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step" ended up in the Beatles' "I Feel Fine" (and possibly "Day Tripper").
posted by kristi at 10:05 AM on April 15, 2010


I will never understand how Sublime got away with completely ripping off Lady Madonna by the Beatles with What I Got.
posted by The World Famous at 10:15 AM on April 22, 2010


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