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My band tracked a new original the other day, I added a piano lick that consisted of only 3 notes, (the song is in the key of D, the added notes were D,E & F#). When "test marketing" the song to my Bro, he said the lick reminded him of a song by "3 Dog Night" called "Hurting each other". I had no idea I was pinching another tunes lick. Is it stealing when you are using 3 notes, and the notes are in scale? What determines copyright infringement? I hear the same blues licks on multiple tunes, what about that? I also hear pop songs that are very similar to other songs from the past. (see how I justify stealing? http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif ) I want to keep the lick in my tune, 'cuz it acts like the glue between verses, but if it's stealing, it's gone. What are your thoughts?



In two days, it won't matter.
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Originally posted by Hippie:

My band tracked a new original the other day, I added a piano lick that consisted of only 3 notes


I'm sure it all depends on the musical context and how much money you make from your song, but three notes was enough to get George Harrison into trouble for "My Sweet Lord".


It might be a good idea to find a recording of that Three Dog Night song and see how rhythmically and melodically similar it is before you throw the idea away.

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Actually, I believe legally it's five or six notes. I do agree with popmusic in that you might want to hear the song...but I disagree in that you can't possibly be familiar with everything, and (italics) everything reminds someone of something (end italics). If you go about your business scared that everything is a stolen bit, you'll go nowhere.


Listen to Deep Purple's "Hush". Now listen to Lennon's "A Day In The Life". Hear it? There's an identical 10 note phrase there. No one got uppity about that one. How about Elton John's "AIDS" song that begins "Yesterday"...the same word and three notes McCartney sang in 1965. The rest of the song's different, but there's that refrain.


Listen to the (probably obscure) Three Dog Night song. If it's close enough that it bothers YOU, modify it a bit. Otherwise, don't worry about it.


Don't get me wrong, I worry about that a lot...that something I've written was actually something I heard on the radio a long time ago and haven't heard since. But, it'd take a lifetime and then some to track 'em all down, and they might not even exist!

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Originally posted by Tedster:

Actually, I believe legally it's five or six notes.


That's a complete myth. There is NO number of notes

that constitute copyright infringement.


All you need to infringe on a copyright is INTENT!

That means that if someone can prove that you

stole ONE NOTE they win. Period...

Intent is the key here...


Now... Of course, it is very hard to prove

that one note was stolen in a court....

Sometimes they try

comparing waveforms- though again, that method

is very difficult. If someone can convince

a jury you've stolen one note... they win!


Many songs sound similar because they use

the same sets of scales. It does not sound like

you had any intent to copy someone else's work.

Sounding similar is not enough to constitute

copyright infringement. It does not sound like a

problem in your case.


Best of luck...



Valkyrie Sound:




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I'm currently tracking down the 3 dog..song, no luck yet.

However, Tedster said.."everything reminds someone of something" , and I'll add to that, "no one can be totally original." Most of us musicians ingest their favorite music, and regergitate it as an original, sometimes not even knowing the source.... This is not the first time I've rewritten or borrowed from someone else's tune. This is just the first time I didn't recognise it, before someone else did. ...damn!




In two days, it won't matter.
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I'm w/Valky on this one. I used to worry about this sort of thing all the time. As I got older/gained experience it bothered me less and less.


Don't sweat it, man.


If I think long and hard about it, everything I've ever done is someone else's. If they start busting us for 'use of influences', then I'm in big trouble!!


If I do happen to 'steal' a lick or phrase here and there, I consider it a 'tribute' to the source, rather than any outright theft!!


And if anyone asks, that's exactly what I'll tell them. (as if they'll ever catch me!!) http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/biggrin.gif



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The truth of the matter is, unless the song you wrote becomes a major hit, nobody is going to even think about taking you to court.And the burden of proof is on them - they can't say " You deliberately stole our music; prove you didn't".
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I heard somewhere that as long as it was 33% different it was ok.

"Meat is the only thing you need beside beer! Big hunks of meat and BEER!!...Lots of freakin' BEER."

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It all comes down to...attorney's fees. If someone thinks they can make more from suing you than they will pay in attorney's fees, expect a phone call from a lawyer. Would a jury say that it sounded like you copied a song? The connection has to be obvious, which in the case of "My Sweet Lord," was fairly clear. As soon as I heard it, I thought "same thing as he's so fine."
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There's not a set percentage in regard to this. Really, there's not. You'll see a lot of variance on court rulings. Some of the other posts in this thread are right on -- it depends on how obvious it is, it depends on the situation, it depends on establishing intent, it depends on how big the song is that is allegedly copying the original song, it depends on how good people's lawyers are, and various other things. I wouldn't sweat it unless it really does sound very similar. Change a couple of notes, in that case, or change the groove or delivery. You're a creative musician, so you can come up with something that is equally cool (or better!).


Now, I haven't heard your song or the original, but if you are talking about three notes -- D, E, f# -- well, those aren't a whole lot of notes. They're three successive notes in a scale. It doesn't sound too worrisome, at least on paper. I wouldn't really sweat it.



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The My Sweet Lord/He's so Fine thing was pretty clear. If you listen to it you will see that Harrison accidently lifted Chorus and Verse - with virtually the same melody line.


Unless you are lifting large portions of melody line there is no real concern. As I understand it, the incidental fills and even bass line are not copyrightable. And if you can show that you both ripped off an earlier tune then neither of you can sue the other.


So I don't think you need to worry at all about your fill. I just hope your song rises high enough to get you in trouble!

- Calfee Jones
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