Thursday, March 12, 2015

What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling; New York Times, 3/11/15

Jon Caramanica, New York Times; What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling:
"Besides, in an age in which popular music is incredibly diverse, with more sonic references, instruments and digital trickery available than ever, using sheet music as a measure of a song’s originality is a weak tactic, and possibly an irresponsible one. The “Blurred Lines” verdict is a victory for an outmoded law, but also an outmoded way of thinking about music.
There are untold things that static sheet music can’t capture: tone, feel and intensity or texture, all of which are as important to modern songwriting as the notes, and probably more so. Relying on the sheet music exposes a generational bias, too — implicit in the premise of the case is that Mr. Gaye’s version of songwriting is somehow more serious than what Mr. Williams does, since it is the one that the law is designed to protect.
There is, it should be said, a similarity in the bass lines of the two songs, and perhaps, more broadly, in their shared lite-funk feel. And it’s likely that Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams didn’t help their case by contending in interviews around the song’s release — including one in The New York Times — the psychic and literal debts they owed Mr. Gaye, and specifically “Got to Give It Up.” (Mr. Thicke testified, though, that he had barely any input in the writing of the song, a different explanation from what he gave the news media.) Often in the credits that come with an album, the phrase “contains an interpolation of” will appear. That generally means the song borrows from something else, but in a way that’s less than an actual sample or a heavily repurposed lyric or melody. It can feel like a legally codified version of a good-will gesture — certainly “Blurred Lines” might have benefited from such a designation up front."

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