I think there's a difference between referencing a song or melody and outright ripping it off.
Sampling is, and has been decided legally is, outright ripping off others' work, and thus those
people must be compensated. Referencing -- using a riff or a run of notes, or taking a lyric phrase,
for instances -- is more of a gray area. It'll be interesting to see how this Marvin Gaye descision
ends up in the courts, and whether it ends up being a Supreme Court test case. I think Robin
Thicke/Pharell's unoriginal tune more referenced than sampled that Marvin Gaye song, but it's worth
looking at the instructions to the jury, because they did get relatively thick into the copyright
weeds in deciding the case.
David's reference to Bach is interesting, because I think Bach and Beethoven and perhaps Dvorak and
other composers who recycled "folk" songs and melodies may have ended up in court under US Copyright
law in 2015. Does Beethoven's 9th outright "sample" large parts of a German drinking song? Isn't
that exactly what got De La Soul in trouble with Gilbert O'Sullivan? It would be interesting to hear
one of the copyright experts' opine on that comparison.
My disdain for the Thicke/Pharell situation is, if you can't come up with an original song, just
credit the originator and pay the damn royalties on your hit. There's no shame in making a career
covering other people's material. Look at all the crooners out there, look at many Country music
icons, look at Sinatra, Presley, Ronstadt, etc etc. It's sleazy to appropriate and not give credit,
in any creative endeavor. I look at Led Zeppelin ripping off Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters
and others with equal disdain, even though I happen to like their music a heck of a lot better than
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Lewis" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2015 1:24 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] maybe the end of ripoff "songwriting"
> Grandpa Jones' tune -- and incidentally, I just delivered a talk on him at
> the Library Wednesday -- was his hit "Old Rattler" in the 1947 King
> Pete Seeger's was something called "Old Gray Mule" from an album "Birds,
> Beasts, Bugs and Little Fishes" that Rebecca had known since
> childhood, but I'd never heard. I think Pete Seeger's recording is later,
> but not much so. One thing both have in common is that they were big
> fans of Cousin Emmy.
> Dave Lewis
> Hamilton, OH
> On Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 2:11 PM, Paul Stamler <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> On 3/16/2015 9:31 AM, David Lewis wrote:
>>> Just last night Rebecca pointed out to me an instance
>>> where Grandpa Jones and Pete Seeger used exactly the same musical setting
>>> for two different songs. Which of them wrote it? Neither of them; it was
>>> something that was out there before either of them and they simply fitted
>>> what they
>>> knew to lyrics that were also around.
>> Just out of curiosity, what were the Grandpa Jones & Pete Seeger songs?
>> Old hymns also tend to be profligate
>>> in terms of what they are set to.
>> Read the Sacred Harp hymnal, and you'll find the same words set to half a
>> dozen tunes.
>> The crossover between "sacred" and "profane" was a big deal; for example,
>> "Come Ye That Fear the Lord" used the tune of "Captain Kidd". And my
>> favorite example, Alfred Karnes's use of the tune from "Don't Let Your Deal
>> Go Down" with the lyrics to "The Promised Land" (rec. 1927 for Victor).