Sunday, March 15, 2015

Musicians generally disagree with the "Blurred Lines" verdict, for good reason; compare to classical music examples

So did Robin Thicke really “plagiarize” Marvin Gaye?  The YouTube clip below is one of the closest comparisons I can find.

Generally, other musicians (including pop) are saying, no, the two songs are different, and the “sampling” does not represent infringement.

I hear an underlying common rhythm, with very similar instrumentation, but different melodies.  That would correspond to a “ground bass” of a passacaglia or chaconne in classical music. 

The copyright applies to the score itself (separately to words and music), and to a performance. But just as with facts in non-fiction literature, actual chords and rhythms cannot be copyrighted.
Imagine if the underlying technique of Phillip Glass’s music was “copyrighted”.  It’s not so different from the effective use of repetition with original rhythms in the scherzos or some symphonies, from Beethoven to Bruckner. 
Imagine, furthermore, that the opening theme of the Mahler Third is viewed as “stolen” from the heroic theme of the Finale of the Brahms First, which itself comes from Beethoven’s Ninth.
Furthermore, the opening of Bruckner’s Third Symphony is based on the opening of the Beethoven Ninth. And the reconstructed Finale versions (now gaining authenticity) of the Bruckner Ninth usually take the Bruckner Third, Seventh, and Beethoven Ninth opening and put them together for one “cathedral” effect.  How would artists offering “completions” of various works (or “recompositions”) protect themselves from litigation?
Vox has a detailed analysis of the jury ruling by Kelsey McKinney here. 
“Who sampled whom” analyzes Thicke against DMV, Detox, Vicky Vox and Belli. Belli, here

The New York Times has an article by litigating attorney Richard S. Busch, by Beb Sisario, link here. The attorney says that musicians don't like to sue record companies because they fear blackballing.

Update: March 19

Ars Technica reports (Megan Guess) that the Gaye family has asked the judge to enjoin sales or distribution of the infringing "Blurred Lines" until royalty payments are made, link here, Also, the original work was created before a change in copyright law in 1977.  

Update: March 21

Here is a New York Times review (by Anthony Tommasini) of a concert by David Kaplan on adaptations from Schumann, comparing the classical world to popular in the discussion, as to how copyright is viewed.  I'll try to find more details on this later, as I was not in NYC to attend this.  

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