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Posts Tagged ‘copyright laws’

Should copyright cover chord progressions?

October 22nd, 2009 4 comments

I was intrigued by a lawsuit filed against the hit band Coldplay last December. Guitarist Joe Satriani claimed that the Coldplay’s hit “Viva La Vida” infringed on his rights to his song “If I Could Fly.”Satriani claimed that Coldplay had copied “substantial and original portions” of his song. According to an MSNBC article, the case was dismissed in court last month.

After the lawsuit was filed, I listened to this comparison, Coldplay Vs. Joe Satriani on YouTube, to see if I could pin-point the “stolen” material. The chord progression did seem similar, if not the same. Siva Vaidhyanathan talks about the limited number of keys and chords musicians have to work with in his Copyrights and Copywrongs several times. After exhausting every possible combination of keys to make both single chords and progressions, are all of the following works considered unoriginal?

Coldplay claimed the similar sounds were completely coincidental. I believe them. In discussing why “thinner” copyright laws should replace our current ones, I have to argue that claiming ownership of a particular chord progression, played by different string instruments, to produce a different song, is a little ridiculous. However, under the current laws and language, should Satriani have won his case?