Author Topic: Musical 'Plagiarism'  (Read 176 times)

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Timothy

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Musical 'Plagiarism'
« on: July 24, 2020, 11:25:12 PM »
Someone posed this question to me, and I don't know how to answer it. Perhaps someone here has some insight. In writing, there can be hefty consequences for even short pieces that other writers have used before. It can be accidental. You've copied something you've read and not remembered directly, or that you've never read before. That's why there are dozens of 'plagiarism checkers' online. When composing music, someone can think their creation is completely original. Yet they have simply written down - or even merely included - bits of something they heard (without remembering) or haven't heard at all? What could the consequences be of such a mistake? And is there some way to double check before publishing, etc?
Timothy Duncan

Jerry Engelbach

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2020, 09:42:08 AM »
Tim,
 
Off the top of my head I can't think of any system to double-check whether you've used someone else's music except for your own familiarity with music and that of others you show it to.
 
There is no such thing as exclusivity with harmonic progressions: they cannot be copyrighted. There are innumerable pieces of music that use exactly the same chords. So in terms of composing it's supposedly only the melody that matters.
 
Even then, many pieces contain "similar sounding" sections. What matters is whether a substantial enough portion of the music appears to be copied verbatim from another. That can be more a matter of judgment than objectivity, and subject to a determination by a court — which can have an unfortunate result for the accused from a musically illiterate jury.
 
There have been very few cases of a classical music composer charging another with plagiarism, so I doubt that it's anything to worry about.
 
Cheers,
Jer
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sandalwood

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2020, 01:42:09 PM »

Michel.R.E

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2020, 02:22:25 PM »
"plagiarism" is only really an issue with popular music.
whether a motif is similar from one piece to another in classical music bears less weight than in pop music where a short motif can basically represent the entirety of that song's musical material.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

gogreen

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2020, 03:37:36 PM »
Reminds me of the "My Sweet Lord" vs. "He's So Fine" plagiarism suit: https://ultimateclassicrock.com/george-harrison-my-sweet-lord-plagiarism/.

RJB54

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2020, 04:26:20 PM »
The problem which has arisen in recent years is that idiot judges who don't know anything about music have started ruling in favor of accusations of plagiarism based on similarity of simple, basic, chord progressions not on significant melodic and/or rhythmic similarities. Some of the cases that have been won recently are ridiculous.

In the case of My Sweet Lord there were significant similarities in melodic phrase and rhythm and had events occurring in exactly the same points in  My Sweet Lord as had occurred in He's So Fine so it was correct that Harrison lost that case.
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Timothy

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2020, 11:17:00 PM »
Thanks all! It's really helpful to know this.
Timothy Duncan

Jerry Engelbach

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2020, 02:00:13 PM »
Here's an interesting website of myriad actual cases by year of accusations of musical copyright infringement:
 
Music Copyright Infringement Resource
 
Cheers,
Jer
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Timothy

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2020, 11:35:41 PM »
Thanks. It's quite a big issue then, judging by the number of cases!
Timothy Duncan

Michel.R.E

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2020, 06:52:07 AM »
no, it isn't a "big issue".
it applies mostly (almost exclusively) to popular music and is not an issue for composers of classical music.

I wouldn't worry about it for a while. you aren't ready to publish any of your works professionally yet.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Timothy

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Re: Musical 'Plagiarism'
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2020, 11:52:24 PM »
Okay, thanks.
Timothy Duncan