Friday Favorites: 3/14/11 – 3/18/11

You might think that mainstream music acts have teams of lawyers and legal advisors all doing what they can to prevent any copyright infringement…and while you might be right, they don’t always accomplish that purpose.

Today we’re taking a look at some artists with copyright cases that made headlines. Some of the settlement figures are staggering. Turns out there’s a really, really good argument for doing your research first — and if you don’t obtain permission from the copyright holder of a song you want to sample, you miiight just want to make a different plan for your song.

Coldplay / Joe Satriani

Ever notice how parts of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” sound eerily similar to Satriani’s “If I Could Fly?” So did Satriani.

George Harrison / The Chiffons

While George didn’t consciously copy the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” with his “My Sweet Lord,” two musical phrases in the former that sound suspiciously like phrases in the latter show otherwise.

Funkadelic / N.W.A.

In the case known as Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, we look at the sampling of one of the most frequently sampled songs ever released: “Get Off Your Ass and Jam.” The court showed that since N.W.A. used the actual sound recording, they knew they were infringing. (But I mean, really, who doesn’t want to be George Clinton?)

Beastie Boys / James Newton

When the Beastie Boys sampled jazz musician Newton’s flute piece, “Choir,” for their song “Pass the Mic,” they didn’t pull the notes directly from the song recording — they played the notes themselves. This distinction caused the case to be thrown out. And what better way to learn about an infringement case than from the sweet, sweet sounds of Robert Segal?

Bob Dylan / James Damiano

In 1996, the federal courts ruled out Damiano’s claims that Bob Dylan copied his music (commonly used phrases and individual words are not protected by copyright law). Ever since, fans of both musicians have continued the battle. An attempt to soil the reputation of America’s greatest storyteller, or blatant theft? You decide.

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