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Tom Petty
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28 November 2010
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rockmusicnut
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The Top Ten Club
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29 January 2015
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parlance
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Billboard article on the settlement between Tom Petty and Sam Smith about "I Won't Back Down" and "Stay."

It's interesting as - speaking off the top of my head - I believe it was Tom's friend George's case that set the precedent for the concept of "accidental plagiarism."

parlance

Beware of sadness. It can hit you. It can hurt you. Make you sore and what is more, that is not what you are here for. - George

Check out my fan video for Paul's song "Appreciate" at Vimeo or YouTube.

30 January 2015
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4or5Magicians
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Tom Petty is great. I like a lot of his work. Good to see that the lawsuit was handled amicably, at least.

 

That said, I think that suing over chord progressions (especially in cases of admitted "accidental plagarism") is crap. There are a finite number of chords and even fewer progressions of those chords that sound pleasing to the ear. If you think about it, it's not really something that someone invented, it's just a natural property of sound waves and the shifting of those sound waves as we perceive them. Em > D > G sounds pleasing to the ear. Some other progressions sound like a person beating a guitar against a cage full of cats. yoko-ono_01

 

In pop music the melody pretty much follows the chord progression and there's only so much you can stray from that before people think it sounds terrible. At some point it will literally be impossible to write a three minute pop song without giving somebody else (or their estate) writing credit for having a similar structure.

 

I'm sure if they looked hard enough, Sam Smith's lawyers could have found an earlier song with the exact same structure as the two songs in question. I hadn't heard the new song until today. Yes, it's very similar, but it's clearly not the same overall song. The two things I could hear in common between the two songs were a pretty basic chord progression (which sounds particularly boring and simplistic, in my opinion, in Smith's song) and a sort of AABA verse structure (the latter of which neither of them invented).

 

Anyway, I'm all for original artists getting royalties if someone covers their song, samples it, or even makes a carbon copy of the song with different lyrics. However, I believe at a certain point the arrangement or overall presentation should be taken into consideration. As similar as the two songs kind of sound, they're clearly two distinct songs to me. One good and pretty catchy, the other.... meh. As nice as Petty is being about the whole thing, these situations almost always come off as a cash grab more than preserving artistic integrity. After all, you never hear about a song that sold 50 copies getting sued for plagarism.

 

But what do I know, I'm not a copyright lawyer. a-hard-days-night-paul-7

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