The Most Famous Copyright Fights Which Shook the Music Industry

The most serious music aficionados among us are familiar with the strange feeling we get when we’re listening to one song and all of a sudden we burst out with lyrics to a different one. Or when we’re in a jam session and we borrow riffs from all over the place to create amazing mash-ups. Or maybe that’s just me. But hey! In my defense, some songs just sound a lot like each other. If you don’t believe me, just go and listen to Dido’s Thank you, and Britney Spears’ Hold it Against Me. And while you’re at it, check out Hands All Over by Soundgarden and Even Flow by Pearl Jam. Mind blown, right?!

And while these songs just sound alike by chance, there are a few artists out there who have legitimately ‘borrowed’ songs from others. Don’t believe me? Well then, I suggest you buckle up. Here are ten of the most popular bands who managed to rock their way into the courts on account of plagiarism and copyright infringement charges. Ready?

copyright infringement

1. Oasis vs. Neil Innes: Whatever because it’s Sweet To Be An Idiot

We all know Oasis from their glory days and the indomitable hits they gave the world that still live on today as verifiable anthems. Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova and Stop Crying Your Heart Out are songs that are still massive hits today. So it comes as a bit of a damper to learn that the indulgent hit from Oasis, Whatever, was sued for copyright infringement by Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Innes’ sue was successful and Oasis ended up giving him credits for the lyrics and the melody. Bit of Doo-Dah for us fans, I must say.

2. Lennon vs. Berry: Come Together because You Can’t Catch Me otherwise

Another heartbreaking case that shattered hearts of the Beatles fans all over, this plagiarism case involved the iconic John Lennon and Chuck Berry. Lennon, as a Beatles member, wrote the song Come Together which was released in 1969. An instant hit, the song raged all over the radios. So it was only a matter of time before it caught Chuck Berry’s attention. Berry, who is now considered as a legend in rock and roll, noticed similarities between Come Together and his own song, You Can’t Catch Me, including a full lyric being stolen. What ensued was a long drawn battle in and out of the courts which left Lennon claiming that he was only paying tribute to Berry. Whether Lennon was truthful or not, we will never know.

3Nirvana vs. Killing Joke: Eighties, just Come As You Are

Killing Joke released Eighties in 1985. Six years later, Nirvana came out with Come As You Are. Recognizing their riffs, Killing Joke decided to plead their case before the Lady of Justice. To make things just a little groovier (read confusing), similarities started being noticed between the Killing Joes song and The Damned’s 1982 release Life Goes On. While the case never really made it to the court, a number of rumors have surfaced since then. Some say that Nirvana tried to back out of the suit by claiming they’d never heard of the band; too bad they had already sent the KJ’s a fan card. Others reported that the KJ’s couldn’t afford to pursue the lawsuit because of moola problems. The grapevine also reported that the courts disposed of the case when Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide. The truth? Your guess is as good as mine.

4. Green Day  vs. Other Garden: Warning, Never Got the Chance

Other Garden released a song in 1992 called Never Got a Chance. Green Day released Warning in 2000. What are the odds that one would sound highly similar to the others? Apparently, pretty high. Colin Merry, lead of the long forgotten band Other Garden, accused Green Day of outright plagiarism. Newspapers reported the case, and Green Day lashed out while claiming their innocence. While the case was ultimately dropped, it resulted in fans noticing a lot of stealing in other Green Day songs as well.

5. Madonna vs. Salvatore Acquaviva: Frozen for My Life’s Getting Nowhere

A lawsuit that demanded withdrawing a song from the market, one of music’s all time super hit pop-stars and a case that made headlines across two continents; this was one copyright battle that no one can forget. Madonna, the Queen of Pop, was sued by a Belgian musician Salvatore Acquaviva for ripping off his song, My Life’s Getting Nowhere, in her song, Frozen. He won that case, and the song was thereby banned in the country. It is interesting to note that this isn’t the first time Madonna was accused of stealing. There are around ten cases of copyright infringement against her. However, considering she’s still the reigning Queen, we’re going to take this with a pinch, or a spoon, or a whole jar of salt.

6. George Harrison vs. The Chiffons: My Sweet Lord is So Fine

Another ex-Beatle, another lawsuit, another fan base left heartbroken. George Harrison released My Sweet Lord in 1970 and became the first ex-Beatle to top the charts after the Beatles had broken up. Little did we realize that Harrison had allegedly ripped off He’s So Fine by Ronald Mack of the Chiffons. Bright Tunes, the house that owned the rights to He’s So Fine, filed a lawsuit against Harrison that resulted in a win for the Chiffons and a heavy loss for George who ended up paying for what might have been just an honest mistake.

7. Coldplay vs. Joe Satriani: Viva La If I Could Fly

A case that would have given us permanent heartache had it reached a verdict in court; this plagiarism accusation came to an out-of-court settlement that saved us all from the official declaration of who cheated off whom. Coldplay, is, well, one of the biggest bands around today. And Joe Satriani is a rock guitarist who enjoys just a little less fame than Chris Martin and company. However, Coldplay’s stardom didn’t stop this guitarist from suing the band for ripping off his 2004 song If I could Fly. According to Satriani, Viva La Vida, a Grammy winning song by Coldplay, steals heavily from his own instrumental song If I Could Fly. Both parties settled out of court, but Satriani’s move led to a number of other artists claiming that Viva La Vida was copied off of them. Talk about a Pandora’s box.

8. Robin Thicke vs. Marvin Gaye: Gotta Give It Up because there’s so many Blurred Lines

In a move that has us questioning the truth, Robin Thicke seems to have filed a protective lawsuit against Gaye stating that Blurred Lines is not a copy of Gotta Give It Up. The lawsuit came after allegations from Gaye that Thicke had stolen the sound of Gotta Give It Up by Marvin Gaye. What started as a messy He-Did She-Did battle of pointing fingers and making claims, the two parties seem to have settled and shifted the blame elsewhere.

9. Radiohead vs. The Hollies: Creep in The Air That I Breathe

The Hollies released The Air That I Breathe in 1973. Radiohead released Creep in 1992. It was only natural then, that when the Hollies heard the similar riffs and licks, they sued the band for stealing their music. The Hollies won, and subsequently, the band had to credit the Hollies for their hit while claiming that they were only inspired by The Air That I Breathe. Bring out the salt for this one as well, because we’ll still run to the tune of Radiohead any day.

10. Rolling Stones vs. The Verve: The Bittersweet Symphony for The Last Time

In a battle that left the Verve handing over all the royalties of their seminal hit, Bittersweet Symphony to the other side, the Rolling Stones lawsuit against the Verve is a true rock’n’rolla court case that is testament to why you should never mess with the heavyweights. The ex-manager for the Stones sued the recently famous Verve for using a large portion of The Last Time (one of the Stones lesser hit songs). The Verve eventually settled out of court by signing over all the royalties from the song to the band. We can only imagine what would’ve happened had they stayed in court.

And so here it is – the most famous copyright infringement cases in the music industry. Imagining all these world famous artists ‘borrowing’ music brings down their image one level, don’t you think?

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Ivy Oscar is a professional writer and blogger from Magnolia, Delaware. She likes to write about music, sports, celebrities and all the good things in life.
Categories: Music

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