Copyrights and Wrongs

When it comes to music copyrights, you’d think it would be clear what counts as stealing. As it turns out, sometimes it takes a Supreme Court decision to tell.

In the article from January’s issue, we talk about how the line of right and wrong wasn’t so clear cut in the case of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. Beyond the world of samples and parodies, however, many artists have been accused of directly “borrowing” distinct melody lines, lyrics, chord progressions and more from the work of others. Compare the examples below and see what you think about musical copycats.

In 1963, the Beach Boys were accused and found guilty of copying the music of Chuck Berry in their song “Surfin’ U.S.A.”:

Chuck Berry – “Sweet Little Sixteen”
The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

In 1976, former Beatle George Harrison was found guilty of copying the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” in his solo single, “My Sweet Lord”:

The Chiffons – “He’s So Fine”
George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord”