Copyright & Copywrong

A “subconscious” act of plagiarism prompted a 1971 lawsuit against George Harrison resulting in a court decision against Harrison (for his song, “My Sweet Lord”), and an initial $1.6 million award to Bright Tunes (for the song “He’s So Fine”).

Recently, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a plagiarism suit brought by Marvin Gaye’s family involving, respectively, “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up.”

Not too long ago, Tom Petty and Sam Smith settled out of court over “I Won’t Back Down” and “Stay With Me.”

Each instance, if nothing else, is an interesting pairing of song titles.

And in an on-its-face bizarre case, singer-songwriter John Fogerty was accused by Fantasy, Inc. of plagiarizing himself in a 1994 case. (Fantasy lost.)

Copyright law does not protect the idea; copyright law protects the expression of an idea.

Which helps to explain seemingly endless renditions in fiction, music and other forms of the Boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back storyline.

As the reader’s source for hard-hitting, incredibly important investigation, the ever-diligent Wildenhain Blog is always on the lookout for transgressions.

And we think we’ve turned up a whopper.

Readers are invited to compare Freddy “Boom-Boom” Cannon’s “Palisades Park” to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” paying particular attention to the horns on each song.

While the melody may be different, and the lyrics certainly are, what of the brass?

(Sidebar: as the very last person on the face of the planet to see Swift’s video for her song, I confess to wondering what all the earlier fuss was about concerning Miley Cyrus and twerking.)

“Palisades Park” was written by Chuck Barris, perhaps best known for later creating the international emblem for TV’s Golden Age: “The Gong Show.”

The 1962 hit clocked in at under two minutes. It was a song so robust with ideas, a subject so profoundly pithy, that two verses were repeated. One after the other, separated by an instrumental bridge that itself was accompanied by roller coaster sounds.

On a more serious note, those interested in the broader subject are encouraged to read Marc Fisher’s cover story for Columbia Journalism Review (March/April 2015), “Steal This Idea”:

On reflection, there’s probably nothing to the Palisades-Shake comparison. How could there be? The two titles don’t make sense together.

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