Last month Walled Culture wrote about Ed Sheeran being sued for alleged copyright infringement – one of many such lawsuits. Happily, he won, because the judge understood how music works, as his comments show, reported here by Music Business Worldwide:
The use of the first four notes of the rising minor pentatonic scale for the melody is so short, simple, commonplace and obvious in the context of the rest of the song that it is not credible that Sheeran sought out inspiration from other songs to come up with it.
There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify – that’s 22 million songs a year – and there’s only 12 notes that are available.
Those numbers show that copyright’s core idea that everything created should be “owned” by one person and protected from being “stolen” by others, makes even less sense as more and more creative works come into being.
Sheeran may have won, but he has been scarred by the experience. Because of the lawsuit, he takes an extraordinary extra step when he writes new songs, as he told the BBC:
“Now I just film everything, everything is on film.
“We’ve had claims coming through on the songs and we go, well here’s the footage and you watch. You’ll see there’s nothing there.”
Vexatious copyright lawsuits have reached the point where it is not enough to create something. Artists might also have to provide proof of exactly how they created it, for example with a video showing them working on material. The chilling effects this will have are clear. Far from promoting creativity, copyright is shown once more to be an obstacle to it.
Featured image by AD0507.