Take A Song, Leave A Song. (Or Is It Wrong?)

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Many of you probably know about the very real, yet arbitrary problem of plagiarism. It exists in many different forms, and it has been a major part of the music industry for a very long time. So how do you know plagiarism when you see it? You don’t! It’s not something that has a finite set of identifying qualities, and in the majority of cases it comes down to a single person’s opinion. So in this world, where such a variety of opinions on plagiarism exist, who can you count on to be the voice of reason? That is exactly what I am here for! And if you’re wondering what makes me so qualified to be the best judge of plagiarism, I would direct you to my flawless sense of right and wrong, my award-winning smile, and the fact that my head is not located up my ass. *If further references are needed, then please contact the following person: my mother*.

In the music industry, there has always been a steady stream of artists waiting to claim that someone else has “stolen” one of their songs. Some of these cases are grounded in real evidence, and others are the result of broke musicians who can’t write a decent song to save their life so they turn on other musicians in a carnivorous fashion. I could prove this by talking about the endless number of examples that can be found with a little internet research, but instead of boring you (and even worse: boring me!) I will only refer to two different examples. The first case is about Johnny Cash using the basis for his song “Folsom Prison Blues” from the song “Crescent City Blues” by Gordon Jenkins. The second (and most hilarious) case is from 1994, when John Fogerty was essentially sued by Fantasy, Inc for plagiarizing himself.

In regards to Johnny Cash, it was extremely clear that plagiarism had occurred, and even Cash himself admitted to this by stating “at the time, I really had no idea I would be a professional recording artist; I wasn’t trying to rip anybody off.” Despite the fact that the storyline was significantly changed from a woman who couldn’t find love, to a story of a prison murder, the lyrics and melody were too similar to prevent legal action from taking place, and resulted in Cash having to pay Jenkins $75,000.

John Fogerty’s case was a little more fucked up, in the sense that up until that point no one had ever heard of someone being sued for copyright infringement upon themselves. During Fogerty’s role as the lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival he wrote the song “Run Through The Jungle”, which Fantasy, Inc then acquired the exclusive publishing rights to. After going solo, Fogerty released “Old Man Down The Road” through a different music label, which then prompted a lawsuit from Fantasy, Inc. Their claim was that “Old Man Down The Road” was basically just “Run Through The Jungle” with different lyrics. Whether or not this is true is a grey area, but for those of you who want my opinion, here it is… IT’S A DIFFERENT FUCKING SONG! Sure the melody sounds similar, but if you look at many other mainstream artists such as AC/DC you’ll find that musicians tend to stick to a certain sound, which could very likely result in songs with similar sounding melodies. So long story short, go fuck yourself Fantasy, Inc cause you don’t have shit on Fogerty! As it turns out the court agreed with me and found Fogerty not guilty of plagiarism.

So as you can see, the world of plagiarism in music is a very tricky thing, and if you’re ever in doubt about whether or not plagiarism has occurred, ask me, because I’ll probably know. And if I don’t know, then it’s very possible that you’ve entered some sort of alternate dimension where up is down and geniuses (a.k.a. me) don’t know something. In that case, congratulations and I hope that you remain safe on your inter-dimensional journey.

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