‘Blurred Lines’ on Their Minds, Songwriters Create Nervously

from NYTs

It’s not easy to be a songwriter in the pop world these days. Listeners rarely see your name. For anything but a giant hit, royalties from streaming are infinitesimal — and big tech companies seem to want to keep it that way.

And then there’s the shadow of “Blurred Lines.”

Four years after the copyright trial over that No. 1 song — in which Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, its primary writers, were ordered to pay more than $5 million for copying Marvin Gaye’s disco-era hit “Got to Give It Up” — the case still looms over the music industry and individual songwriters, who were left to wonder when homage bleeds into plagiarism.

Intellectual property lawyers and music executives interviewed for this article said the case had fueled a rise in copyright claims. In September, Ed Sheeran will go to court to defend “Thinking Out Loud,” a Grammy-winning song that has been accused of mimicking another Gaye classic, “Let’s Get It On.” Two years ago, Mr. Sheeran settled another suit by giving up part of his ownership in the Top 10 hit “Photograph,” which was accused of having similarities to “Amazing,” a song by the British singer-songwriter Matt Cardle.

The aftereffects of the “Blurred Lines” decision — which was upheld on appeal last year — have been felt most acutely by rank-and-file songwriters, who work in obscurity even as their creations propel others to stardom. The ramifications for them have been inescapable, affecting royalty splits, legal and insurance costs, and even how songs are composed.

More here.

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27 Responses to ‘Blurred Lines’ on Their Minds, Songwriters Create Nervously

  1. Danielle C. April 3, 2019 at 6:19 pm #

    I can agree with Ben’s post. Songwriting has changed from someone inspiring others and speaking from their heart to a never-ending court battle of Guess That Song. I remember hearing about the “Blurred Lines” case a while ago and thought why would someone have to go fight in court for something that somewhat sounds like another song? Because of this musicians are having to put in more legal paperwork than ever before to protect themselves and their work. Many of these cases are from larger named musicians being sued by smaller named artists or producers. For example, in recent news Ariana Grande wrote a song called “7 Rings” where she uses a portion of the song of “My Favorite Things” from Rodgers and Hammerstein. It was reported that she had to give ninety percent of royalties of the song in order to have the song not get a lawsuit and loose the song entirely. She could have left that part out of the song, but she felt it was a larger piece of the song and the song would feel incomplete without it. Another song Ariana Grande gave up a large portion of royalties to was for her song “Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” where she sampled a part of the *NSYNC song “It Makes Me Ill”. Without her filing use of these songs for her album, she would have lost all royalties and had to pay a large sum of money for this. In contrast, these artists noted in the article like Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé, and more that must fear about possible lawsuits. This is not only the artists worried, but the writers who are not celebrities themselves. Unfortunately, as more music gets released, people will want to sue and get money for something they feel is similar and try to get money and/or recognition from. Celebrities, songwriters, and aspiring artists should not have to deal with this and should be able to freely express their music. I almost see someone sampling others’ songs as a compliment. If they feel like a part of their song works in a different person’s song, it should be noted and recognized, but changed and altered where the artists don’t have to suffer with consequences.

  2. Aidan Nathaniel Clee April 3, 2019 at 6:37 pm #

    The “Blurred Lines” Case has had quite the detrimental on the industry and for a consumer like myself I hate to hear this. I want to be able to hear songs that draw their inspiration from other songs because then I get the same feeling from two different songs and I want that so that I have a playlist of songs with the same feel and not just one song I have to keep replaying to get the feeling from. Songs are an art and all art has taken some inspiration from another form of art so the whole space in my mind should be mostly free of such extreme cases like the “Blurred Lines” case where the songs are barely similar. I think that this effects everyone negatively and only hurts art as people will hesitate to express their true creativity. Greed is the enemy of all as this is just a case of artist in no way involved wanting money for something they had no influence in at all. The pop genre is already in trouble as they have diminished in popularity as of late, so this issue doesn’t help at all. This issue is a plague to the industry and is taking copyright law too far for the purpose of greed.
    If artist want to copy a song and put their own spin on it they will call it a remix. It happens the most in the rap industry but this would apply too to the other industries because in my belief if they don’t call it a remix and it doesn’t have a lot of similarities then clearly their intent was not to copy the song but to instead just take some inspiration from the vibe and feel of the song. “Blurred Lines” should be seen as a tribute and not a copy of a past song intentionally for an increase in listens. It’s a delicate industry and judges should be careful in how they rule on cases like these.

  3. Diamond Vasquez April 3, 2019 at 8:35 pm #

    “’Blurred Lines’ on Their Minds, Songwriters Create Nervously,” illustrates how hard it is for songwriters to make songs for artists because of copyrighting. From the very beginning of the article, it explains, “It’s not easy to be a songwriter in the pop world these days.” “Blurred Lines,” a song made by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, is a prime example of the difficulty of songwriting; once the song came out and became such a popular song, it got hit with a lawsuit, claiming that they copied some parts of the song from Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” Though, as I was reading this article, I found it funny that, though many artists were sued because of copyrighting, there are other artists who copy the beats of songs from the past, but they do not get caught. I know that when I listen to today’s music and compare it to some songs from the past, such as the 80s or 90s, sometimes, I can hear a beat that I heard in a more recent song. I just find it shocking how all artists utilize beats and music from older songs. Though, as described by Ben Sisario, Mr. Golan says, “If there are/were similarities, they were beyond unintentional,” explaining a song that he created with other songwriters. This shows how artists use music or lyrics from past songs as inspiration for their song and not to intentionally copyright.

    I found this article very intriguing because it is true how it is hard for songwriters to create an original song with the inspiration of another song because one may never know if they will get sued. Busbee, a songwriter for Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum describes, “I’m not going to stop writing songs. But it puts a massive damper on the process, if you’re concerned that you will be sued.” It as come to the point where more people are being recognized or mentioned in the credit of various songs, which is a way an issue of plagiarism can be settled, “often protected with confidentiality agreements.” This article exemplifies the struggle songwriters go through when creating songs and how careful they are when it comes to this because they do not want to get caught and sued.

  4. Kyle Stephens April 4, 2019 at 9:43 pm #

    This is a huge problem in the music industry. I never understand why people were allowed to copyright their songs. It creates less exposure for the artist because the song can’t be used for anything other than the artists choice. This also creates problems for songwriters when writing new songs. They have to try and find the line and then not cross that line to ensure that they don’t end up with a lawsuit on their hands. This also completely destroys the creativity of the industry. By copyrighting songs it ruins the flow that song writers have during their writing. When song writers start second guessing what they can and can not put in the song it ruins the quality and most likely ruins the flow of the song making it not as good as it could have been. Although copyrighting is bad for future songs it obviously protects songs and artists who wrote pasts songs. So, I believe there needs to be some other way of doing this. The copyright is too rigid to work for a song. The copyright makes it so only the artists and those who he appoints to be able to do ANYTHING with the song. As I said before, this ruins the creativity in the music industry. I think an alternative to this could be some sort of copyright type deal where the artists are able to write their songs as they please but there could be a system of checks and balances that ensure an artist is ripping off an entire song. Because when you think about it there are only so many things you can write a song about and many beats are used repeatedly by different artists. This is obviously going to create songs that are similar in sound, but that shouldn’t invoke a lawsuit. The focus of the artists and songwriters is to create the best work they can for their fans, and also to make money. The copyright on songs ruins both of these as well because it lowers the quality of the work. Which means the song will get less streams causing profit loss and loss of exposure.

  5. Cameron Kharazmi April 4, 2019 at 9:53 pm #

    The “Blurred Lines” case is definitely an interesting look into the legal world surrounding the ever-changing music industry. Music in itself is a very fluid subject; sounds, melodies, lyrics have been recycled and improved upon for ages, creating new genres and establishing popular sounds that the masses have enjoyed. When I heard about this case in 2013, I was astounded at how similar the Marvin Gaye and Robin Thicke songs were, and due to my general lack of knowledge related to the music industry I was convinced that the Gaye estate was right in winning the case. However, after reading this article, and understanding more about the music industry as I took an established interest in the business side of it, I understood that Williams and Thicke should have received such a harsh ruling. Sure, the songs sound similar, but the writers only came in with the intention to make a sound similar to the type of music Gaye and other artist of his time would make. It is rather impossible to make a song that does not sound somewhat similar to something already created, and the songwriters and producers put a considerable amount of creativity in their craft. I was captivated by the reaction from songwriters over this ruling, as it made sense about why they would be paranoid. Everything they do draws inspiration from some other form of music, so it would not be fair if they were subject to a lawsuit for creating music the way it should be. Of course I also believe that there is a fine line between inspiration and outright plagiarism; big artists such as Drake and Kanye West have had moments where they have poached another artists lyrics, to the dismay of music and rap purists. However, the legal ramifications of the circumstance can create a cap on creativity. If songwriters and artists would be sued by the estate of whoever they sample or draw inspiration from, they would not be so compelled to continue their craft. As such, we would see a lack of creativity in the music industry. I believe this is a situation that should be monitored in the near future, and I enjoyed reading about the pesky legal issues surrounding the music industry.

  6. Peter Honczaryk April 5, 2019 at 10:36 am #

    I hate to see that popular artists like ed Sheeran are facing trials because they supposedly used a similar beat to their songs. It is getting harder and harder to come up with new lyrics that do not mimic other songs since all artists need inspiration from others. Music has always been around and people love to listen to new songs when they come out. Every song has its own special meaning and beat that was personal to the artist who created it. They make their own music videos and release their albums for their fans. But the songs mean more to the people who listen to them than ust the artist who created them. The music video portays only what the choreographer wanted it to look like and people such as myself usually like to stay away from the music video because we like to interpret the songs for ourselves. These songs give people personal feelings, too. Using Ed Sheeran as an example, his song eraser can be interpreted differently by the creator, someone who has recently broken up with someone, and someone who had found someone special. The song was written and produced by Ed Sheeran and Johnny McDaid. To them the song could be about their friendship and how they both like to write music together. The music video shows only ed Sheeran in a gold spotlight as he sings the song. This goes on the whole video. Some else can interpret the song differently if they are only listening to it for the first time. If they are recently broke up with someone, they may think back to the good times they shared together and possibly regret some of the things they had done to each other. Another person may be uplifted by the song as if there are new memories to come. The fact is that singer/songwriters like Ed Sheeran should not be hassled by using a similar beat or lyrics to past songs because songs are getting harder and harder to write. Their fans expect them to release new albums and songs but they are more worried about lawsuits than actual songs because nobody wants to give up the rights to their songs because it was “too similar” to another song everyone forgot about that was made a decade before.

  7. Claudia Ralph April 5, 2019 at 12:57 pm #

    The “Blurred Lines” case has done something for music that was unprecedented. Protecting a late artist’s “vibes” is something that had never been done before. As I was reading this article, I definitely was going through and listening to all the songs that were being compared, trying to find subtle or obvious similarities in the songs. I found one thing to be true though and that is that people in Hollywood are desperate for their 15 minutes of fame and if that means getting their names tacked onto a hit song because of four words or a few notes of similarity, they are most definitely going to do it. It also raises the question about how much is too similar, which is something that the “vibes” idea with “Blurred Lines” was questioning.
    But how far is protecting intellectual property is too harsh? I think that these lawyers and lesser-known artists is a product of just wanting fame. In America, you can sue anyone for almost anything and this industry has seen the same. Songs that had one or two creators suddenly are getting names added once they explode onto the scene and have great interest taken to them by the general public. It is almost pathetic in my opion that people want fame this desperately that they are willing to go to the greatest lengths and spend all this money just to get a cut of the royalty and add something to their resume.
    Creativity also comes into play here. How do singers and songwriters continue to come up with creative and original content while respecting other artists or estates that are very active in suing people? Will this deter these people from making good content? It most definitely slows down the process of making good and copyright-free content. It also makes singers go through channels of buying potential copyrights to songs instead of exposing themselves to lawsuits after the songs are released. This way, they do not have to fight in court and they only have to pay the fee to the original artist or estate that is settled in advance.

  8. Divyaa Sarin April 5, 2019 at 3:48 pm #

    After reading the title of this article, I immediately knew this was about the famous song, “Blurred Lines,” created by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. It is no surprise that artists happen to take beats or verses from other artists. This song was very popular when it first came out. However, after reading about this article, I had no idea that concepts of this song were taken from Marvin Gaye’s song, “Got to Give It Up.” However, plagiarism especially in music is very serious. I decided to listen to Marvin Gaye’s song and realized the similarities between the two songs. The beat of “Blurred Lines” is almost identical to “Got to Give It up.” The way Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams sing in the song almost mimics Marvin Gaye’s voice in his song. The issue with is that, Thicke and Williams didn’t give any credit to Gaye! As I mentioned before, I don’t find this surprising because many artists in our generation do this.

    In 2014, Sam Smith’s song, “Stay with Me,” which was also very popular, was found to have musically plagiarized the chorus and melody from Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Smith’s defense was that he never heard that song! He claimed how “it was a complete accident. I am 22 years old. I’ve never listened to that song”. http://lawyerdrummer.com/2017/03/music-plagiarism-2/ Sometimes it seems as if artists can similar melodies as other artists by mistake, but not the same exact chorus with melody! However, Sam Smith decided to settle the disputes and gave credit to Tom Petty in his song. I think this was a wise decision because regardless if he claimed he copied the song or not, there were distinct similarities. He could have faced a huge lawsuit like Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams with Marvin Gaye!

    Personally, creativity is very important especially in the music industry. Artists are recognized for their distinct songs. However, when things come into light when artists steal another artist’s song, it is very embarrassing! It makes their destroys reputation. Look at Robin Thicke now! He used to be very well known and his music career was flourishing. It has been four years since he released another “hit song” that made it to the Billboard 100 list. Therefore, it is important to be unique, because no one like a copycat!

  9. Cameron Lindley April 5, 2019 at 4:19 pm #

    The blurred line between taking inspiration, and stealing. I personally hated that Robin Thicke song, and I hate Robin even more, though Pharrell is actually a very real character within the music industry. If I never heard the name Robin Thicke again, I would have no complaints. With that being said, I find it hard to believe that someone in the likes of Pharrell would commit such a crime because Pharrell is a musical genius, a great producer. I think a lot of people in the music industry take inspiration from others; ASAP Rocky and Travis Scott, and so on and so forth. But at what point does inspiration become copying? And at what point can the older artist exploit the inspired for such? The answer is that I do not have a concrete answer. I do think it is interesting that most of the songs mentioned in this article are taken from Marvin Gaye, not to belittle Marvin, it’s just interesting that they all came from him. After all, he is one of the best this world ever produced.
    Nonetheless, this is something that happens all over the music industry as more and more artists are looking for the easy way to the top, not doing everything for the love of music, but instead for the dollar signs that come with a top 10 hit. While musicians always over-value themselves with flashy lifestyles, all to run out of money after the fame, they still make a very, very nice living in their primes.
    I feel that the creativity within the music industry is leaving, as all of the songs are starting to sound the same, and cover the same subjects. I think Blurred Lines is a perfect example in that they stole it from Marvin Gaye to make a quick buck, or a couple million bucks. Either way, I have no complaints hearing Robin Thicke lose all his money, after all, the song was very studio produced, I doubt Thicke wrote any of his own lyrics. The song title itself, ‘Blurred Lines’ is a perfect example of the Blurred Lines in the music world today.

  10. Stephanie F. April 5, 2019 at 5:09 pm #

    This article brought up an interesting concern that not a lot of people seem to talk about. I too, have noticed the trend of songwriters’ music being called “plagiarized” left and right, some with no true basis. I relate to this article a lot, not because I write music or am a music lover myself, but my cousin is also a songwriter and deals with these problems. Many of the songwriters in the article expressed their frustration of writing music with these concerns in mind. Instead of just writing music as an art, to express your feelings, songwriters are forced to write more robotically to prevent any plagiarism claims towards them. Many of these accusations are not aware that sometimes the similarities are intentional, and known as homages, showing respect to a certain artist or person. A culture that is apparent now are people being quick to accuse artists and bring some sort of “social justice” by trying to not only accuse them but ruin their entire careers. Songwriters and artists now must be especially aware of this, to not upset the general public, even if the homage in their song is supposed to be honoring that person.

    Not a statistic, but one can assume that hundreds or thousands of songs release everyday throughout the globe. Music is universal, and not subjected to one country or culture. With that said, making beats, progression, lyrics, are getting harder and harder to make every day. There are only so many beats that can be made. In the case of Ed Sheeran, his song was accused of copying the beat of another artist. Many to his defense claim that this was a common beat and could easily be considered coincidental. As a songwriter, my cousin has also come to his defense saying that every song is bound to coincidentally sound like another, whether you are aware of the song are not. Music has flourished and there is a huge supply of music over the demand for it, as many artists and songwriters try to make it big in the industry. People also seem to forget that there is a fine line between copying and inspiration. Many songwriters, like many other people in the art field, look or listen to other people’s art for inspiration. When people take on art as their career, their art may not come as naturally as it used to, which is why artists look at others for inspiration. Many confuse this as copying, when these artists just look for motivation in art and music, just like we do.

    My cousin has expressed these frustrations to me before and there are much more struggles that songwriters go through. As stated in the article, they do not make that much on streaming applications such as Spotify, Apple Music, etc. I have always been old-fashion and still purchase my music through CDs and digital downloads. However, most of the general public has migrated over to these streaming channels. After hearing about this, I started to purchase as much music as I can from my favorite artists and songwriters, in order to support them. Music is a hobby that most people enjoy and take for granted, it is important to support those that grant us that happiness.

  11. Horace Bryce Jr April 5, 2019 at 6:01 pm #

    When does homage bleed into plagiarism? This is an essential question many music artist have to ponder whilst in the midst of their creativity. The article “’Blurred Lines’ on Their Minds, Songwriters Create Nervously,” does the best it can to explain this ridiculous phenomenon that happens in the music industry. Now the title is clearly alluding to the case over the song “Blurred Lines” created by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. This was a four year copyrights trail that ended in both the artist paying a summation of 5 million dollars for “copying” Marvin Gaye’s hit song “Got to Give It Up.” This was due to the statue of intellectual property.
    After listening to Gayes’ basically 12 minute song (11:52) “Got to Give it up” and comparing it to Thicke and Pharrells’ song “Blurred Lines,” I found the songs to be somewhat similar. While these songs do have their similarities its not like it is copied word for word. The only similarities I heard was in the cadence and instruments used. I do think that Pharrell and Thicke should have gave credit where it was due as their song was clearly inspired by Gayes but I do not support the fact that Pharrell and Robin had to pay 5 million dollars as collateral for copyrighting.
    The reason I am opposed to copyright suits built upon a statue of intellectual property is because it limits creativity, the one thing that is at the core of all music. This is evident in the songwriter Evan Bogart statement about having to second guess himself stating, “I shouldn’t be thinking about legal precedent when I am trying to write a chorus.” With that being said, a lot of songs are inspired by songs that have been released prior. Just as many music artist are inspired to start music because of another artist. Also many of the artist who are being “copied” probably would not care if the song that was inspired by theirs was not a hit song. They ultimately just want the money that is attached to the hit song. This is evident in the trail case over the hit song “Friends” by the singer Anne-Marie and the producer Marshmello. Only after it climbed the Billboard chart to No. 11 is when they were accused of copying a smaller song called “Obvious” by Cassie. The accusers claimed that a single line in the song “Friends” was to similar to a line in their song “Obvious.” This was ridiculous because it is fairly easy for the writer of “Friends” to come up with a line containing the same words as “Obvious” without having ever heard it. Lastly I believe that if you put something into the world as creative as music, you should be down to allow other artist to use it as a base. As soon as you release your work into the world it should be free to use given that the original artist is properly credited. This in turn allows artist to fully be creative without having to worry about legal ramifications. https://www.smoothradio.com/features/copyright-infringement-cases-music/

  12. Devero McDougal II April 5, 2019 at 7:40 pm #

    This article was a great read for me since I am a big music person, I do what a lot of big tech companies don’t want people to do and that is go look for artist who are not mainstream. If you do your research about most of the music that is out now is that you will find that a lot of the big hits that are out now sound very similar to music from the past. I do believe that they pick certain artist to target when it comes to this. I feel that there will not be any copyright claim towards certain artist because that is the artist that they want to push. New artist has to worry about this while trying to make a name for themselves, it is already hard enough to try and break through in the music industry. If we look deeper in this, we will learn that their will always be certain people are pushed more than others and it is unfortunate. I personally enjoy looking for new artists and listening to their music and what makes it more satisfying is that I know that people in my generation do not do this. People in my age group just wait for the new biggest thing to come out and in all honesty the most popular doesn’t always mean the best. If you really pay attention you can also tell who puts in more effort into their music and that is mainly the lesser known artist. If we consider this it makes it that more confusing that these companies would go to certain lengths to prevent these artist from growing.

  13. Doran Abdi April 5, 2019 at 7:40 pm #

    Even at the time the instance occurred where the Gaye family had been able to take Robin Thicke and everyone who had been apart of creating “Blurred Lines”, and then being able to take a large sum from the profits of the song, I had been incredibly shocked. While the songs did had a similar style and there definitely was an influence from one song to the other, I still felt as if the songs were different enough for a possible copyright case to not occur. While Gaye’s representatives have been infamous for being ruthless in being able to take millions of dollars from the profits of a song based on a similar-nature of a song or a possible small sample from Marvin Gaye’s music (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/29/ed-sheeran-sued-for-second-time-over-marvin-gaye-lets-get-it-on-claims), I still feel as if this incident had set a dangerous precedent towards future cases due to its popularity when it had initially occurred. I feel as if this area of copyright law had already been a very grey area and something that could be tough in its interpretation, but after this case it seemed to only get more complicated and flexible. When it is appropriate for a case to be created where it can be found that a song is copyrighting material from another song? In many cases, an artist can take a piece from another song and use it in their own as long as they are able to get that particular sample cleared, but what about instances in which the artist is not aware of its sampling of another song (similar to is being seen in the “Blurred Lines” case). Is it appropriate for artists to have to be marginalized and become completely paranoid whenever creating a song from a constant fear of a possible “Blurred Lines” situation? Additionally, it seems as such a bizarre topic and situation because when has an artist ever blatantly stolen or recreated another song and labeled it as their own? This seems to be something that is already frowned upon within the music industry, and while there definitely is a formula for artists to be able to find themselves on the radio, creativity should still be widely praised upon especially within the music industry. Essentially, I hope that America does not find a way to add unnecessarily legal obligations—like it does with everything—for the music industry where artists should be able to express their creativity. It is also sad to see that someone who made such brilliant music like Marvin Gaye is now being represented by an estate that is desperate for as much money as they possibly can vulture upon.

  14. Jon Sozer April 5, 2019 at 7:44 pm #

    In reality, I’ve thought of this many times in the past. “If I started my own business, how would I name it? Can I be sure that no one has taken that name yet?” It’s a silly, fleeting thought, and I can’t imagine mentally exhausting and stressful it must be for songwriters to have to constantly think up lyrics, or melody, or chord progressions that are all unique. At the end of the day, there is a finite amount of words in each language, and someone is bound to think of something that someone else has thought up years earlier without being influenced by their work. But how would they go about proving it? To just say: “I’ve never heard that before”, even if the two pieces match exactly. Though we often say that the possibilities are limitless, or that there are infinite ways to go about life, that’s just not true. At some point, we are going to have done it all, and then ingenuity is going to take a backseat to court hearings. I hope that companies find a way to go about copyright claims that isn’t seemingly ridiculous. In the article, it’s stated that “Friends”, one of the most popular songs of the past year, is under fire from the much lesser known, obscure Eden Prince and his song “Obvious”, over a line found in both songs that share similarities. People want to protect their creations, and that’s their right. But, as a society, I believe we need to work harder in making sure that claims are reasonable and legitimate before having the producers on both ends making quiet deals under the table.

  15. Rachel Leto April 5, 2019 at 8:02 pm #

    Today, it is harder and harder for songwriters to make something that is original because most of what everyone is doing now has been done before. Most artists get inspired from music they have heard before and this leads to them creating their sound from that. Or the complete opposite can happen and the artist creates a sound that they think is new and original and it has been done before from an artist in a different country. It is definitely influencing the way that artists and producers act when they have created a new song. They are now going to have to do a lot of research and make sure that no one else has done before what they are doing now. It is already difficult in this industry because you have to adapt to what people want to listen to and what they want from that artist and to now have to tiptoe around being sued is just another thing to worry about.
    A recent incident of this is with Ariana Grande. Her new song called “7 Rings” sounded very similar to the songs of Princess Nokia, Soulja Boi, and 2Chainz. The fact that it does not sound like one person’s song, but three people is insane to think about. I think that artists need to realize that the sound that is produced is technically not theirs as much as the lyrics are. If all artists think that this case is that, the sound that is made is originally by them, then everyone in the rap genre would go after each other, everyone in the pop, r&b, even country genre would go after each other for stealing their sound. It is hard to be original when everyone has done everything already. Especially today with such demanding fans that just want album after album as if it is easy to make one, it is no surprise that some of them are going to sound alike.

  16. Demetri Allen April 5, 2019 at 8:25 pm #

    This article by Ben Sisario was a very interesting read that I have a couple of opinions on. As someone who is constantly inspired by music, I can say it’s always a shame to see an artist face scrutiny. Here Ben brings up many examples of how of artists come under fire for using melodies or sections from other artists songs. Personally, my favorite genre of music is Rap and Hip-Hop which was almost solely created off of sampling other people’s music. In fact, Hip-Hop music started when DJ’s would play only the break sections of funk and soul records which consisted mainly of the drums and base. Fast forward to now where Rap is Americas most popular genre and sampling is no different. Obviously, I do believe that if you use another person’s work then that person should be credited in some way, and most often they are. Artists that sample music often work out an agreement or deal with the original artist beforehand, In some cases, it may be an upfront fee or a percentage of total revenue. However, the lines get faded when artists make their own music that is similar to an already existing song. I believe that there is a clear difference between inspiration and copying. Certain songs might have a similar melody and tempo but at the end of the day, there are still things that make the song unique and differentiate it. I feel like music is forever malleable and certain things can be based on others but still have its own identity. It’s very important for labels and music companies to not enforce such harsh rulings especially when it comes to the internet. Biggest example right now is YouTube, with the worst copyright system imaginable. On the platform right now if you so much as verbally sing a song in a video that has nothing to do to the song, you could get a copyright strike and have all the revenue from the video taken by the music company. It is atrocious and shouldn’t be the standard for music.

  17. Daniel McNulty April 5, 2019 at 8:26 pm #

    This issue that this article brings to attention is something that is a tremendous problem throughout all of the music industry. Whenever I would hear a song that sounded familiar, I was never able to understand why previous artists would allow for these similarities. This leads to many problems, such as limiting the amount of exposure an artist receives, and also makes the job of the artist even harder when writing new music and lyrics. Songwriters must tip toe on a very find line, making sure not to exceed their boundary and end up with a lawsuit in front of them. In addition, this takes all creativeness out of the music industry, as songs become less and less original. When artists are constantly scared of having a lawsuit dropped on them, their music can be ruined as there is an extra level of caution that does not allow them to be artistically free. On the other hand, copyrighting is also a good thing, as it protects pieces from being previous musicians to be stolen and used in the future, discrediting their work. I believe there needs to be some sort of balance put in place to help level out this issue. Copyright is used by artists to put restrictions on their music, only allowing who they appoint to do what they want with the song. A way to balance this issue would be to allow artists to work freely, but develop a system that looks over their work and makes sure that they are not completely stealing from other artists. The more music that is created, the less options there will be for originality, thus leading to songs having a similar beat or rhythm. The issue that copyright is presenting on these artists is that the level of creativeness is being hurt, as well as their profits due to less exposure of their music.

  18. Ria Bagga April 5, 2019 at 10:21 pm #

    As a musician and songwriter myself, I find it very difficult to sympathize with songwriters that feel they shouldn’t have to worry about legal precedent while doing their job. Everyone has to worry about legal precedent while doing their job! And while I don’t want to argue about the disgusting meaning behind “Blurred Lines;” when it comes to classics, instead of trying to write their own version of the song songwriters should be encouraged to sample music. Musicians sample songs all the time and it should be encouraged to LEGALLY sample and offer a royalty for each song sold or streamed. Copyright is a huge issue nowadays and there shouldn’t be any question about whether copying music is right or wrong. If your song isn’t entirely original, you couldn’t make the song on your own and you don’t deserve the complete rights to it anyways. I understand it may be a difficult job to make money off of to begin with, but that doesn’t mean plagiarism should be excused. I don’t thing it should be a controversial thing, regardless of creativity stemming off of songs from the past. If you want to produce a song similar to one from the past, you should be able to write the song and provide compensation to the artist (or deceased artist in Marvin Gaye’s case) because songwriting is no different than writing.

  19. Erick Plaza April 10, 2019 at 11:59 pm #

    The “Blurred Lines” case, where two well-known artists were ordered to pay more than $5 million for imitating another artist’s disco-era hit song, shines a light on the legal issues which in turn has been affecting music artists’ creative process. As a result of this case, many artists now have expensive insurance policies, and the demand for copyright lawyers has skyrocketed. As a music producer myself, being inspired by other artist’s work is essential to create new ideas. No artist should be worrying about legal issues while expressing themselves through melodies, chords, and lyrics.
    On the other hand, I do understand people being concerned with protecting intellectual property. Maybe the lyrics of a particular song meant a lot to them, and they feel that the artist who imitated the song did not do it justice. But then I begin to think about those people who are suing these artists to make a profit, thus destroying the creative privilege of an artist. It could be possible that we are seeing the originality of artist’s take a toll since nowadays every song is similar at least in the urban genre.
    Presently, there is a huge supply of music over the demand for it, as many artists and songwriters are trying to make a career in the industry. Of course, there is a bigger probability of music sounding similar or were getting inspiration from certain experienced artists. People also seem to forget that there is a huge difference between copying and gaining inspiration from another artist. 

  20. Abdulrafay Amir April 11, 2019 at 9:48 pm #

    It is clear that these days with social media being so popular and able to reach all over the world has led to benefits and drawbacks for everything we can imagine. This has led to many people wanting to sue and accuse individuals for copying or causing damage to them. In the case of this article, because of the enormous rise of social media, many individuals can hear or see songs that give them inspiration. These cases show that many artists might be either drawing “too much” inspiration or literally plagiarizing the contents of the song that gave them a huge amount of fame. In this case, these artist can’t get away with it because the artists who got their work used or stolen are able to combat these actions. I believe that in some sense, it could be true that these artists are plagiarizing other peoples work but I believe that in many cases, they are truly drawing inspiration. Many times, artists subconsciously write lines that could sound similar to other songs because clearly it is where they draw inspiration from. For example, in rap, there are many lyrics where artists use the same lines heard in another song because saying something like that is so common. I believe that people have become too picky and it has caused them to do anything they can to win over some case where they get recognition or can sue somebody for money. That is why in the article it also stated how many artists don’t even like to comment where they draw inspiration from on articles or interviews in fear of getting sued for something. It is a sad reality to face.

  21. Keara Prystash April 12, 2019 at 10:51 am #

    Originally I thought this post would be dealing with misinterpretted lyrics. While it does not talk about this I feel it acts in a similar way. This is because the homage paid nowadays and ideas are being misinterpreted. This is causing lawsuits, conflicts and hurt feelings to listeners and songwriters worldwide. Many of times to avoid these issues songwriters and singers are giving away a large majority of their profits to pay royalties. This large amount of money is disappearing from the pockets of those creative minds who worked so hard to create such an album or song. I feel that while royalties are okay and can do good that ultimately there are blurred ethical lines to the practice. The greed that sometimes wraps itself into the practice is hindering creativity, future homages and increasing negativity as a whole. The industry while is fierce and competitive should be treated delicately when dealing with these cases as to act in the best possible ethical and legal ways.

  22. Ashley Bock April 12, 2019 at 12:36 pm #

    The New York Times article harps on a topic that is very prevalent in the music industry today. This topic being musical copyright. This topic was something that I did not know about until I heard about the “Blurred Lines” case. My opinion on the matter is that similar to the article. Firstly, I do not see this issue going away, however it is a bit ridiculous. Now, if an artist copies something blatantly whether it is the lyrics or the melody with out giving credit or making it known then I do feel there is cause for action. However, some cases appear to be less then credible from my perspective. For example, the article mentions the song, “Friends” by Marshmello, Anne-Marie, and Nat Dunn being considered copyright infringement because a single line was similar to that of a song called “Obvious” written by Eden Prince and performed by singer Cassie. In this case I feel as if it is entirely unreasonable solely because many phrases are very common and saying that because one person wrote it once no one else can makes it copy right. I do not yet, I also do agree with the statement made by Busbee, who says that he will not stop writing songs, “But it puts a massive damper on the process, if you’re concerned that you will be sued” (NYT). This is very true, the article discussed the fact that in many situations when it comes to writing music if an individual feels a part of the song sounds even slightly similar to that of another song, they would have to change it some notes to make it less similar. Yet, I feel the article explained my thoughts on this very simply by stating, “there are only so many notes in the scale” (NYT). This is true and when looking back at music you can see similarities in songs; however, most would not take action. This because now most artists decide to settle these claims more subtly simply at their name and providing them with royalties, or a payout which this, the money, is the reason I feel this issue is occurring more and more frequently especially among number 1 songs.

  23. Lillie Moran April 12, 2019 at 3:38 pm #

    There are so many ideas and so many risks in order to “make it big” in the music industry, but once an artist has released a song, the biggest risk is yet to come. We are always told not to plagiarize because of the risks that are associated with us, but musicians face quiet risks, where settlements are resolved behind closed doors. But if these are settled behind close doors, how are we supposed to protect ourselves from plagiarism. This article points out many examples of how pop artists are constantly under fire for potential cases of plagiarism. Luckily for us as college students, there are now ways that we can prevent this. One example that many Seton Hall students use everyday is a service that allows teachers to see if a paper that is turned in by a student is plagiarized. The service uses a database to compare the paper to millions of others that are found on the internet. This service is just one of the many ways technology is being used in order to stop plagiarism. But in simpler terms, what does this mean for our ideas as emerging college students, some of which are entrepreneurs, who want to “make it big” in the business world?

    It is hard to teach creativity, just as hard as it is to teach one how to become successful in a career. As a student who wants to create the next big thing, I find it hard to do so because it seems as though all of the good ideas are taken. We are always told by Professor Shannon to “Think Different,” but is that really all it will take? I find it extremely hypocritical to try and think different in the society we are living in today. With technology and innovation constantly on the rise, it is hard to think what could possibly be next. I always have to stop and pause to ask myself, “what do people want?”. And the answer is never clear. People will always want more. We pushed for a way to communicate through the world, and now we are seeing that same company push for a different way to watch TV. We wanted to be able to travel to different places easily and cheaply, and now, we don’t even feel like driving ourselves. When will it ever be enough? In the world of ideas that will not stop blooming, I find it inevitable that someone will plagiarize. The question we have to ask ourselves now is, “when do we draw the line between plagiarism and innovation?”.

  24. Richard Gudino April 12, 2019 at 3:44 pm #

    I agree with the opinions raised by the article, that the job of the composer is to make a symphony and compose some lyrics for an artist. They should not have to worry about whether what they are making is going to sound similar to another artist. This new ‘blurred lines’ era of music we are living in could be why musical standards are being thrown out the window and anything passes for music. These copyright claims are music has started a trend where creators are no longer going to try to take risk because that risk could be the difference between a hit single or the unemployment line. Some might say there should be no need to worry about copying others, if artist are as creative as they say they are then they could come up with a completely different sound. There are only so many different combination of pitches and musical noted we can have before we run out of ideas. That is most certainly the case we have now, if you google search similar sounding songs it will direct you to websites that find songs that have a pretty close melody. All the songs showcased on these websites seem like they took a whole melody not their own and either sped it up or down to fit the lyrics of the new song. A thought also popped up, hip hop music and other genres close to it usually sample a sound or part of a song to incorporate into their beat or melody. Does it also not mean that the people behind these samples could sue if they thought they weren’t justly compensated for the small part that they played in the song. We have seen that artist could get sued for having similar sounding lyrics. So then why can’t people who get sampled do the same. The article best summed it up with this copyright claim of a song back in 2014 what has happened is now people have managed to copyright an entire style of music. It is almost as ridiculous as having a country artist sue other country artist just because they have close to the same melody. It seems like they do some of the time. I do not like the direction that the law for music and entertainment has taken, because now it seems like we are restricting the creativity of an artist on a subject that has impacted billions and can even shape the political landscape.

  25. Matthew Ams April 12, 2019 at 5:46 pm #

    It is incredibly difficult for artists to now make their ‘own’ songs because so much music has been released in the past. As stated in the article there are only so many beats and melodies that can be used together so of course there will be certain songs, even if the artists or producers didn’t mean to, that sound very similar. Purposely copying the beat and melody of a song is of course wrong when they do not note where it came from, which comes under the act of plagiarism. The “Blurred Lines” case began a new era of artists claiming rights to songs that sound similar to theirs the were released years before hand. Because of this case, people in the music business are watching over their shoulders when making songs which not only puts a lot of stress on artists and music labels but also hinders the magic inside the studio. Creativity is what we should all be worried about the most. Without artists having freedom to sample an older song or listen to a song that caught their attention and make a spin off version how are we as consumers supposed to be infatuated with new music? I one hundred percent agree that if artists blatantly use any song that has been published before that they should get a piece of the pie in terms of revenue and should also be listed as an influence, but simple beats that sound similar to previously put out music should not be allowed a case against the producer/artist.

  26. Marquis C April 12, 2019 at 10:59 pm #

    To begin this was a well written piece by Ben Sisario and I agree with most of it. It isn’t easy in today’s world to be a singer or songwriter. The writers and producers are all walking on thin tight ropes nowadays. The “Blurred Lines” case was a perfect example. The legal implications in the music industry is a crazy thing. It makes it hard for the artists to be creative.
    Singer and songwriter Robin Thicke, had a pop hit with the song Blurred Lines. However, that all came to a halt when Marvin Gaye’s estate sued Robin and his label for copying Marvin’s song. This was one of the biggest cases and I remember somewhat following it. The case went to court and ended up getting upheld and Robin had to pay a settlement to Gaye’s estate. That case caused artists to tread lightly and make them be careful of how they make their music. Their creativity is truly being put to the challenge but it isn’t fair. A lot of music and sounds are based off old popular songs, so it’s almost impossible for each song to sound different. This has only started a domino effect in the music industry.
    To sum things up, tech companies need to start paying artists to clear their songs. Artists make hits and get set up to fail.

  27. Jessica F June 13, 2019 at 9:24 am #

    Due to the previous “Blurred Lines” trial, songwriters and artists are afraid to be influenced by other songs in fear of copyright infringement. How much homage to another artist is too much? Once the “Blurred Lines” case came out, there were more and more claims to copyright infringement being brought to light. The easiest way to solve the cases was to give up part ownership to whomever claimed to have similarities to the track; they essentially want their money. I find this to be selfish and unnecessary as when artist receive royalties for plays, that money is split between many parts of their production team, which according to the article there is “a small sliver of streaming revenue earmarked for songwriting…”. Also, if a song has numerous writers with credit given, that small amount of revenue is then split even further between them. It is understandable that in the music industry it is necessary to give credit where credit is due, however if a song is influenced by a certain artist or song, it is ridiculous to sue them for a mere similarity. It should be understood throughout the industry that royalties are a difficult topic and should remain untouched as they are already spread so thinly. Also, it should be understood that music is an art that evolves from the past works that have been published. Songwriters and artists should be honored that others are taking influence from their music and using it to create new material, not digging for credit and a small portion of royalties. Songwriters should not be afraid to write because they worry that they will get sued if it sounds remotely similar to another artist. That hinders their creativity and will not help them produce their best work without boundaries. It amazed me that in the “Blurred Lines” trial, the court allowed Marvin Gaye’s estate to copyright a style of music. Copyrighting a style of music restricts all other artists and keeps them on their guard to be sure they are not infringing on it. Again, creating music should be kept un-restricted and artists/songwriters deserve freedom to create what they feel with no fear of infringement.

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