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11 Artists Accused of Music Plagiarism

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Could it be true? That the summer’s biggest hit is not really a Robin Thicke original? That’s the latest controversy brewing over Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” After being warned that a lawsuit was perhaps forthcoming, Thicke preemptively sued the copyright holders for Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” and George Clinton’s “Sexy Ways,” asking a federal judge to determine that the song is not derivative of the other two works. You can decide for yourself: Thicke vs. Gaye.

Thicke is far from alone, though: There’s a long line of accusers and accused who have found themselves in similar situations.

1. My Sweet Lord/He’s So Fine


The Issue: Although it contained some embellishment, Harrison’s 1970 solo effort “My Sweet Lord” basically had the exact same melody as The Chiffons’ 1963 hit “He’s So Fine.”

The Ruling: Though it was decided that Harrison didn’t purposely steal the song—it was considered a case of subconscious theft—he was ordered to pay $1.6 million to Bright Tunes Music Corporation, about 75 percent of the song’s North American sales. This was later downgraded to $587,000, but Harrison later admitted that the ruling left him too paranoid to write songs for quite some time.

2. Ghostbusters/I Want a New Drug

The Issue: Allegedly, the producers behind Ghostbusters approached Ray Parker, Jr., and asked him to come up with a song that included the name of the film, but was rather simple otherwise. They played Huey Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug” for Parker as an example of the sound they wanted, and Parker apparently just lifted the bass line and guitar riff almost directly. Huey Lewis and his people sued for $5 million.

The Ruling: They settled out of court, and the terms of the settlement were confidential until Huey Lewis did VH1’s Behind the Music series in 2001, when he said, “The offensive part was not so much that Ray Parker Jr. had ripped this song off, it was kind of symbolic of an industry that wants something—they wanted our wave, and they wanted to buy it. ... [I]t's not for sale. ... In the end, I suppose they were right. I suppose it was for sale, because, basically, they bought it."

Ray Parker, Jr., sued him for breaching the confidentiality agreement. It doesn’t appear that the results of that lawsuit were made public, so it looks like people are keeping their mouths shut this time.

3. Last Nite/American Girl

The Issue: The Strokes flat out admitted that they took the opening of "Last Night" directly from "American Girl."

The Ruling: Tom Petty wasn’t interested in a lawsuit. “That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you.’ It doesn’t bother me … If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe. But I don’t believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.” Petty had a similar reaction when people pointed out the similarities between the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Dani California" and Petty's "Last Dance With Mary Jane." He told Rolling Stone, “The truth is, I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock and roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry.”

4. Bitter Sweet Symphony/The Last Time

The Issue: The famous opening (and continued theme) from "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was borrowed from an orchestral version of the Stones’ “The Last Time.”

The Ruling: It was bittersweet, all right. A judge ordered The Verve to give musical credit entirely to Jagger-Richards—not to mention all of the profit, meaning that the band didn’t make a dime off of their most popular song. Lead singer Richard Ashcroft called it the best song the Rolling Stones had written in 20 years.

5. Hello I Love You/All Day and All of the Night

The Issue: The chord structure and rhythm are the same in both songs, and the choruses share the same melody.

The Ruling: Despite urging from their lawyer, The Kinks never took legal action. Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger later stated in the liner notes of a box set that although they didn’t rip anything off from the Kinks, they did rip the drumbeat of the song from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.”

6. Frozen/Ma vie fout le camp

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The Issue: The opening four bars to “Frozen” from Madonna’s Ray of Light album are virtually identical to “Ma vie fout le camp” by Salvatore Acquaviva.

The Ruling: Madonna lost... but only in Belgium, where Acquaviva is from. Although a Belgian judge ruled that “Frozen” was, in fact, plagiarized, Madge didn’t have to pay any damages. The judge ruled that the album be pulled from shelves and that the song be removed from radio and television play in Belgium. Just Belgium. Madonna being Madonna, she of course flouted the ruling and played the song on her Sticky and Sweet tour stop in Belgium in 2009. Aqcuaviva’s representatives declined to sue.

Madonna was also accused of stealing parts of "Justify My Love" from Public Enemy.

7. Folsom Prison Blues/Crescent City Blues

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The Issue: "Folsom Prison" is almost the exact same song—even down to the lyrics—as "Crescent City Blues," which came out two years before the Johnny Cash hit. Gordon Jenkins, the original songwriter, was not credited at all.

The Ruling: Cash ended up paying Jenkins about $75,000 after the At Folsom Prison album became popular. He got off easy. Listen to the songs. They’re almost identical.

8. You Are Not Alone/If We Can Start All Over

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The Issue: Twin composers Eddie and Danny Van Passel alleged that songwriter R. Kelly stole pretty much their entire 1993 song "We Can Start All Over." "You Are Not Alone" was released in 1995. 

The Ruling: In 2007, a Belgian court finally ruled that R. Kelly did indeed steal from the Van Passel brothers. The judgment is only recognized in Belgium, where airplay of "You Are Not Alone" has been banned.

9. Surfin’ USA/Sweet Little Sixteen

The Issue: It’s the same song. Seriously, you can play “Sweet Little Sixteen” and sing the lyrics to “Surfin’ USA” and it fits perfectly. Berry’s record label noticed the striking similarity and went after the Beach Boys, who freely admitted they had ripped off the melody—and even the lyrical theme of visiting various locations. “I was going with a girl called Judy Bowles, and her brother Jimmy was a surfer. He knew all the surfing spots,” Brian Wilson said. “I started humming the melody to 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and I got fascinated with the fact of doing it, and I thought to myself, 'God! What about trying to put surf lyrics to Sweet Little Sixteen's melody?’”

The Ruling: Berry won co-authorship on the song, plus a portion of royalties from “Surfin’ USA.”

10. The Air that I Breathe/Creep

The Issue: Radiohead’s debut single borrows a bridge section from The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe”. I was kind of doubtful about this one, but parts of these songs are shockingly similar.

The Ruling: According to Albert Hammond, co-author of The Hollies’ song, he and Thom Yorke agreed “Creep” had creeped on “The Air That I Breathe,” so Yorke agreed to share writing credit with Hammond and Mike Hazlewood and gave them both a portion of the royalties.

11. Come Together/You Can’t Catch Me

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The Issue: Berry’s song “You Can’t Catch Me” contains the lyric, ”Here come a flattop, he was movin' up with me.” Sound familiar? It sounded familiar to Chuck Berry too, right down to the voice inflections.

The Ruling: To keep Berry and Morris Levy, his publisher, happy, John Lennon agreed to record three more songs from Levy’s catalog. This did not go well. When Lennon only came through with two songs, Levy sued Lennon and ended up winning just under $7000. This was a pittance compared to what Lennon sued Levy for. Levy released an unauthorized album of Lennon songs based on the rough cuts Lennon sent over when he was trying to pick three songs to record to fulfill the original agreement. Levy ended up having to pay EMI $109,700 and $42,000 to Lennon for damaging his reputation with the poor quality of the record and the “horrible” cover art.

See Also:: The Time John Fogerty Was Sued for Ripping Off John Fogerty

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Pop Culture
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
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At its best, Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’ Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY

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Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of this year and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In June, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE

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In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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10 Pieces of Lying Lingo from Across the United States
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Maligner. Fabricator. Fibber. Con artist. There are all sorts of ways you can say "liar," but in case you're running out, we’ve worked with the editors at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to come up with 10 more pieces of lying lingo to add to your storytelling stash.

1. HASSAYAMPA

This term for a liar originally referred to a gold-rusher in Arizona, according to DARE. It can also be used to describe an old-timer, especially one who likes to exaggerate. The word hassayampa (also hassayamper) comes from the Hassayampa River, which is located in the Grand Canyon State. According to the Dictionary of American Folklore, “There was a popular legend that anyone who drank of the Hassayampa River in Arizona would never again tell the truth.”

2. JACOB

“You’re a Jacob!” you might say to a deceiver in eastern Alabama or western Georgia. This word—meaning a liar, a lie, and to lie—might be based on the Bible story of twin brothers Jacob and Esau. Esau, the elder and firstborn, stood to inherit his parents' estate by law. At the behest of his mother, Jacob deceived their father, blinded in old age, into thinking he was Esau and persuaded him to bestow him Esau’s blessing.

3. LIZA

Liza or Liza Jane can mean a lie or a liar. Hence, to lizar means to lie. Like Jacob, Liza is an eastern Alabama and western Georgia term. However, where it comes from isn’t clear. But if we had to guess, we’d say it’s echoic of lies.

4. STORY

“What a story you are,” you might say to a prevaricator in Virginia, eastern Alabama, or western Georgia. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), story, meaning a liar, is mainly used in the phrase, “You story!” Story as a verb meaning “to give a false or malicious account, lie, tattle,” is an English dialect word, according to DARE, and is chiefly used in the South and South Midland states. “You storied to me about getting a drink,” you might tell someone who stood you up.

5. LOAD

To load or load up means to trick, mislead, or “deceive by yarns or windies,” according to cowboy lingo in northwest Texas. The term, which can also be a noun meaning a lie or liar, might also be heard in northwest Arkansas and the Ozarks.

6. YARN

To spin a yarn, or to tell a long tale, began as nautical slang, according to the OED, and comes from the idea of telling stories while doing seated work such as yarn-twisting. (The word yarn comes from the Old English gearn, meaning "spun fiber, spun wool.") By extension, a yarn is a sometimes marvelous or incredible story or tale, and to yarn means to tell a story or chat. In some parts of the U.S., such as Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, and Tennessee, to yarn means to lie or tell a falsehood. “Don’t yarn to me!” you might say. Street yarn refers to gossip in New York, Kentucky, and parts of New England.

7. WINDY

Telling a windy in the West? You’re telling an “extravagantly exaggerated or boastful story,” a tall tale, or a lie, says DARE. Wind has meant “vain imagination or conceit” since the 15th century, says OED.

8. LIE

In addition to being a falsehood or tall tale, a lie in the South and South Midland states can refer to the liar himself.

9. STRETCH THE BLANKET

You’ve probably heard of stretching the truth. How about stretching the blanket? This phrase meaning to lie or exaggerate is especially used in the South Midland states. To split the blanket, by the way, is a term in the South, South Midland, and West meaning to get divorced, while being born on the wrong side of the blanket means being born out of wedlock, at least in Indiana and Ohio.

10. WHACK

In the South and South Midland, whack refers to a lie or the act of lying. It might come from the British English colloquial term whacker, meaning anything abnormally large, especially a “thumping lie” or “whopper,” according to the OED. In case you were wondering, wack, as in “crack is wack,” is probably a back-formation from wacky meaning crazy or odd, also according to the OED. Wacky comes from whack, a blow or hit, maybe from the idea of being hit in the head too many times.

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