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7 Famous Artists Who Plagiarized

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Manish Jindal

March 27, 2024

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7 Famous Artists Who Plagiarized

Key Takeaways:

  • Many famous artists, across genres, have faced accusations of copying melodies, lyrics, or song structures.
  • Cases often hinge on how much an element is borrowed and whether it’s considered transformative or simply copying.
  • Plagiarism can lead to lawsuits, settlements, and damage awards, impacting artists’ careers and reputations.
  • Plagiarism can occur across all musical styles, from rock to pop and hip-hop.

The realm of music is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to famous artists who plagiarized.

Over the years, numerous music plagiarism cases have surfaced, casting a shadow over the originality of some of the industry’s most celebrated works.

These famous plagiarism cases in music not only challenge the integrity of the artists involved but also spark debates about the fine line between inspiration and outright copying.

From iconic melodies to unforgettable lyrics, the accusations have led to legal battles, settlements, and sometimes, a reevaluation of what constitutes originality in the music world. This blog post gives you a useful insight into the famous artists who plagiarized.

7 Famous Artists Who Plagiarized

The realm of music is no stranger to controversies surrounding plagiarism, with several famous artists facing allegations and legal battles over the originality of their work.

Here are some notable cases involving renowned musicians:

  1. Ed Sheeran: Faced a lawsuit for his hit “Shape of You,” which was claimed to plagiarise the song “Oh Why” by Sami Chokri. The court ruled in favor of Sheeran, stating he did not deliberately or subconsciously copy the song.
  2. George Harrison: The former Beatle was found to have subconsciously plagiarised The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” in his solo hit “My Sweet Lord.” Harrison was ordered to pay over half a million dollars in damages.
  3. The Beach Boys: Their song “Surfin’ USA” closely resembled Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Berry was eventually given songwriting credits and royalties from the song.
  4. John Fogerty: In a unique case, Fogerty was accused of plagiarising himself when his former label claimed his solo track “The Old Man Down the Road” was too similar to “Run Through the Jungle,” a song he wrote for Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fogerty successfully defended himself in court.
  5. Slipknot vs. Burger King: Slipknot threatened legal action against Burger King for creating a band, Coq Roq, in their commercials, which Slipknot claimed was a rip-off of their image. The case was eventually dropped.
  6. Oasis: The band’s song “Shakermaker” borrowed elements from The New Seekers’ “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” leading to a legal settlement where Oasis had to pay $500,000.
  7. Queen and David Bowie vs. Vanilla Ice: Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” famously samples the bassline from “Under Pressure” by Queen and Bowie. Initially not credited, legal action resulted in Bowie and Queen being added as co-songwriters.

11 Famous Plagiarism Cases in Music

Over the years, numerous artists have found themselves in legal battles over accusations of musical plagiarism. Here are some of the most notable cases:

George Harrison Vs. The Chiffons

George Harrison’s hit “My Sweet Lord” was found to have subconsciously copied the melody of The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.”

This case highlighted the fine line between inspiration and infringement, leading to a lengthy legal battle that wasn’t settled until shortly before Harrison’s death.

Led Zeppelin Vs. Spirit

The iconic intro of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” was accused of resembling Spirit’s instrumental “Taurus.” The court ultimately found “no substantial similarity,” saving Led Zeppelin a significant amount in royalties and preserving the legacy of one of their most famous songs.

The New Seekers Vs. Oasis

Oasis’ “Shakermaker” bore a striking resemblance to “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,” originally a Coke ad jingle and later a hit for The New Seekers. The case was settled, reportedly for half a million dollars, leading to Noel Gallagher’s quip, “We prefer Pepsi.”

Killing Joke Vs. Nirvana

Killing Joke noted the similarity between their song “Eighties” and Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” Although they claimed they’d sue, the matter was dropped following Kurt Cobain’s death.

Wire Vs. Elastica

Elastica’s “Connection” was too similar to Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba” for comfort, showcasing the thin line between influence and outright copying in the Britpop era.

Lana Del Rey Vs. Radiohead Vs. Albert Hammond’s Dad

Lana Del Rey faced legal action from Radiohead, claiming her song “Get Free” plagiarised their hit “Creep.”

The dispute was settled with an undisclosed agreement, despite Radiohead themselves having faced plagiarism accusations for “Creep” from the song “The Air That I Breathe” by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.

Sam Smith vs. Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne (2015)

Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” was found to have similarities with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne’s 1989 track. The issue was resolved amicably, with Petty and Lynne receiving co-writing credits and a share of the royalties.

Robin Thicke And Pharrell Vs. Marvin Gaye

The family of Marvin Gaye claimed “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.” The court ruled in favor of Gaye’s family, awarding nearly £5 million in damages and sparking industry-wide discussions on copyright and composition.

Joe Satriani Vs. Coldplay

Guitar legend Joe Satriani accused Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” of plagiarizing his song “If I Could Fly.” The case was dismissed “upon stipulation,” and settled out of court.

The Rutles Vs. Oasis

Oasis’ “Whatever” was found to have similarities with Neil Innes’ “How Sweet To Be An Idiot,” leading to Innes receiving a co-writing credit in a twist of irony given his work with The Rutles, a Beatles parody band.

John Lennon Vs. Chuck Berry

John Lennon’s “Come Together” was accused of borrowing from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me.” Lennon settled out of court, agreeing to record some of Levy’s songs, leading to a complicated legal and recording saga.

These cases illustrate the complex nature of copyright law in music, where the line between inspiration and plagiarism can often be blurred.

They serve as cautionary tales for artists about the importance of originality and the potential legal consequences of borrowing too closely from existing works.

Conclusion

The music industry has witnessed numerous copyright infringement lawsuits, where famous artists faced plagiarism claims over their hit songs.

These cases often revolve around publishing rights and copyright claims. Accusations of plagiarism not only affect the artists involved but also serve as a cautionary tale for content creators across all mediums.

Allegations of plagiarism, involving a list of songs from various genres, underscore the importance of ensuring originality in creative works. To safeguard your work against such claims, consider using Bytescare Plagiarism Checker. For more information, please contact us.

FAQs

What constitutes plagiarism in music?

Plagiarism in music occurs when an artist uses significant parts of another artist’s melody, lyrics, or harmonic structure without permission, credit, or proper licensing.

Can a music plagiarism case affect an artist’s career?

Yes, music plagiarism cases can impact an artist’s reputation, lead to financial losses through settlements or court orders, and sometimes affect future works and collaborations.

How are music plagiarism cases usually resolved?

Music plagiarism cases are often resolved through out-of-court settlements, where the accused may agree to pay royalties, provide credit to the original creators, or both. Some cases may go to trial, resulting in a judge’s ruling.

What is a famous example of a music plagiarism case?

One famous example is the case involving Marvin Gaye’s estate and Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams over the song “Blurred Lines,” which was found to have similarities with Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”

What role does copyright law play in music plagiarism cases?

Copyright law protects the rights of creators by prohibiting unauthorised use of their works. In music plagiarism cases, it serves as the legal basis for determining infringement and awarding damages.

How can artists protect themselves from being accused of plagiarism?

Artists can protect themselves by seeking proper licenses for samples, ensuring originality in their compositions, and consulting with copyright experts or musicologists during the songwriting process.

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