Copyright issue’s

Today i want to talk about something else,
the reason is an interesting discussion i had with a RL friend.
She knows my love for music and wanted my opinion on this,

But let me start with the beginning.
I am a Joe Satriani fan, a big one.
So in 2004 i bought the album : Is there love in space
released at April 13, 2004
bI played it over and over and over again.

In 2008 Coldplay released the album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
Offcourse i was suprised with the title track, as most Satriani fans i guess.
The song Viva la Vida and Satriani’s song If i could Fly are simular,
same rhythm, same chord progression and the leading guitar melody is the same
as the lyric melody, Joe filed a lawsuit in December 2008 for copyright issue’s

This is simply the background of the discussion i had,
she wanted to hear my opinion on this.

Joe Satriani : If i could fly ( 2004 )

the interesting melody starts at 0.50 sec,
but pay attention to the rhythm and the chord structure as well.

Coldplay Viva la Vida ( 2008 )

I agreed with the fact that Coldplay and Satriani uses a lot of the same things
in the songs, I did some research and found a few interesting things.

wait till 0.35 seconds and compare that to Satriani’s main melody.
This song is from a band called Los Enanitos Verdes an argentina band,
the name means something like Little Green Men
( witch is funny in this context, but more about that later on )
The song is called Francis Limon and the first release was in 2002 october 29

On august 11 2003 french singer Alizée released an album
witch included the song J’en Ai Marre

remarkable huh ?
listen at the guitar at 0.40 seconds

But lets go further back in time.
in 1981 Marty Balin released his first solo album,
Marty is known as founder and one of the singers of Jefferson Airplane.
His first solo album included the hit Hearts

recognise the melody ?

I am not sure how far Joe is in the lawsuit and if there is going to be one.
But i am curious to find out what a judge would say ?

How far does copyright go ?

There are ( in western music ) only 12 notes to play, thats it.
and if we would say that western music took a giant leap since the 1950’s
we can say that people are using those 12 notes for 59 years now.
That means millions of songs are written with those 12 notes.

Offcourse this means that at some point you play a combination that is allready played
before, it is impossible to come up with a combination that hasn’t been played allready.

Joe can go to court offcourse, but Los Enanitos Verdes can do the same with Joe
and don’t forget Marty, he can collect from Los Enanitos Verdes, Joe and Coldplay.

So how far does the copyright law go ?

I do believe in the good of people,
so i am assuming noone is copying on purpose ( naive maybe )

It could be that Joe heard the Marty song back in ’81, the melody got hidden inside
his brain and at some point it came out and became : If i could Fly.

It could be that Joe nor Coldplay ever heard Marty’s song and that they don’t even know the band Los Enanitos Verdes

It could be that Los Enanitos Verdes never heard Marty’s song.

It could be that Coldplay know Joe’s song and thought “coool one”
they transposed the chords and thought to be safe

I guess this is one of those hard to crack cases.
A funny thing, witch has nothing to do with all of this, is Los Enanitos Verdes
the band name can be translated as Little Green Men,
and that happens to be a Steve Vai song, witch was released in 1984
on his first solo album called Flexable.

Offcourse they had the name sooner then Vai wrote the song, i guess
Their first album came out in 84, so it could be they heard the song and thought it
would be a cool band name.
But in this context it’s funny, Steve and Joe are long time buddies and have the
G3 tours going on.

But the main question remains : How far can you protect a song ?

Marty wrote his song in 1981 ( or before )
Los Enanitos Verdes released there song in 2002
Joe in 2004 and Coldplay in 2008

The french song has a simular chord progression as Coldplay’s and Joe’s one
and was released in 2003, so before Joe released his one.

Would it be fair to say that Joe stole from Marty ?
or from Los Enanitos Verdes ?

Did Los Enanitos Verdes stole the melody from Marty ?

Did Joe heard the french song ? or did Coldplay hear it ?

Or is this all a Coincidence ?
A thing that happens in music ?

Different people at different points in time getting the same kind of inspiration and
coming up with simular songs ?

Love, Peace and Melody


~ by homelessmartian on January 27, 2009.

9 Responses to “Copyright issue’s”

  1. WOW Stan, you have gone into great detail..great read and soooooo very interesting. There are millions of songs that could repeat that same history.
    So true how something from when you’re 2 could embed itself into your brain and come out 30 years later….OoO yes it DOES happen.

  2. This is a fascinating article. It is true that you can forget you have heard a song and that parts of it can come out later. I seem to remember a case where Robert Palmer heard the chorus to “Some Guys Have All The Luck” by Rod Stewart on the radio and then forgot he heard it. He later “wrote” the song again with a different verse. I do not know how much of his royalties he had to pay to Rod Stewart!

    In the Coldplay case I think the similarities come down to the volume of songs written and that the coincidence is going to happen sooner or later. If you have an infinite number of monkeys and you give them guitars instead of typewriters then evetually two of them are going to write the same song. In my view it is likely that Coldplay will have to make some kind of payment even though I think they have not intentiinally plagurised.

    • I think your right Djai.

      allthough i find it interesting to see to WHO they have to pay ?
      The main melody goes back to the eighties, and spread over different continents ?

      And if Coldplay has to pay, what happens to Joe ?
      does he has to cough up some cash ?

      I will keep tracking this offcourse so stay tuned !!!

  3. I’ll say it again. I’m glad I’m not a judge. lol

    While it’s certainly wrong to steal music there doesn’t seem to be an clear cut definition of what is right in cases like this. It’s just one big grey area where there is no black and white. I would hate to be the judge that has to dig through all this and determine what the ruler is that measures right and wrong.

    Off course in every group there are going to be people that intentionally exploit grey areas like this one banking on a non-commital judge that doesn’t want to make waves. It makes this just that much more of a sensitive subject.

  4. hey, there’s only 7 notes, and some other notes in between those notes. Musicians are bound to hit the same notes from time to time.
    Joe Satriani has reason to get offended when he hears his song inside Cold Play’s Viva la vida. We’re talking about a vague catchy chord loop similarity. So my views:
    a) Joe Satriani has reason to be pissed
    b) Coldplay didn’t steal his music
    c) Coldplay will win the court case if it goes to court

    • Hi DD.

      i guess this is the whole point ?
      is it Joe’s song ?

      the melody and chord structure are being used before in the same way he uses them.

  5. Side-note on history: Marty Balin had nothing to do with forming Jefferson Airplane but rather the sorry excuse for a band called Jefferson Starship that followed them. He did to the Airplane what “Fresh Air” did for Quicksilver but to really get it right, they should have worn matching stage outfits. Yeah, with sequins.

  6. Has anyone noticed any classical composers using this chord progression or melody? I wouldn’t be surprised if Vivaldi uses it somewhere

  7. Didnt looked into that, but your right offcourse.
    It wouldnt suprise me and i bet we can find some compositions that has the same chord progression…

    Maybe there is someone outthere who has the time to go through all of that music to find some pieces 🙂

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