I read an article today on The Guardian website about another copyright infringement suit.
In this case, The Script is suing James Arthur.
Now, the facts.
James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go” released in 2016 has 846 million streams on Spotify and on YouTube it has over 600 million views.
Meanwhile “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” released in 2008, doesn’t even rate a mention in the Top 10 streamed songs for The Script and even their biggest song, “Hall of Fame” released in 2012 is sitting at 419 million streams on Spotify. On YouTube, “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” has 172 million views.
G, D, Em and C is the chord progression under question. The Script are adamant that the way they use the Chord progression with the vocal melody is unique and original and they are the first ones EVER to do it. Go to a Christian church and a lot of the songs use this chord progression. Pick up any album from any era and this chord progression will be there.
The songs do sound similar, but any song which uses this chord progression will sound similar. Of course it’s no surprise that the attorney’s representing “The Script” are the same ones Marvin Gaye’s heirs used for “Blurred Lines”. According to The Script’s legal team, at stake is $20 million dollars.
You see, The Script’s acceptance by the public is diminishing. They haven’t really had a hit since “Hall Of Fame”. It doesn’t mean the songs since have been poor, it’s just the public hasn’t embraced them like “Hall Of Fame”.
Sort of like Twisted Sister. The public embraced them with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”. Subsequent albums didn’t have the same public acceptance, but it didn’t mean the songs were bad. Subsequent solo albums from Dee Snider also suffered the same fate.
But in this case, The Script hired a forensic musicologist to report back on the similarities. Seriously, WTF.
Anyway, it sure is a great time to be a forensic musicologist. Every label is hiring them to check an album worth of songs for their artists, just in case the song might sound similar to something else.
The reason why music became such a large commercial force is because songs sound similar. In the book “Hitmakers” by Derek Thompson, it mentions how our tastes in music are based on something we’ve heard before with some slight variation.
How many times have we stumbled upon a new song that we like, listen to it constantly on repeat while we try to figure out what other song it sounds like?
And we seek out songs with similarities. So when you have an environment with millions of songs sounding similar and using 4 chords in a progression, you will start to create songs using those same 4 chords. For me, it was Em, D, C, C. Then it went to Em, G, C, D. Then it went to G, D, Em and C.
But we live in a world that if someone is winning, someone must be losing. So in this case, James Arthur is winning and The Script are losing, because he is winning with a song that sounds similar to their song and their song sounds similar to another song and that other song sounds similar to another song and so on.
Think of the mess that Copyright is in right now being due to how Corporations hijacked Copyright terms to be 70 years post death. Because, all of this mess was started from the heirs of dead artists, because songs that should have been in the public domain were not. If the songs were in the public domain the “Blurred Lines” case wouldn’t have happened and this case wouldn’t be happening.
Seriously how bad is the “Blurred Lines” case.
Let’s put it into a metal context.
It’s sometime in the future, and the Black Sabbath members are all passed on, and the rights to their songs are with their heirs. A band writes a song which sounds stylistically like Sabbath’s debut album. The heirs sue for Copyright infringement, because even though the songs are different, they have a similar 70’s groove, feel and style of Black Sabbath’s first album.
Expect to see even Marvin Gaye’s heirs sued now, because even Gaye’s grooves were inspired by other artists. If there is money to be made, a writ will follow.