If you haven’t seen it yet, Coldplay has been sued by Joe Satriani over Cold Play’s hit song Viva La Vida. Joe is claiming that his song was ripped off. I think the following video best explains the lawsuit.
It’s really uncanny how similar the songs are. They are even the same key. But is it copyright infringement? I love lawsuits like these because there are such interesting issues at play. My former law school professor Susan Kornfield is to thank for creating all of my interest in this subject.
The key here is that Joe must prove Coldplay ACTUALLY copied his work. George Harrison was found guilty of plagiarizing "He’s so Fine" when he released "My Sweet Lord" when the court found that he subconsciously copied the song. He’s so Fine was a big enough hit that it was hard for George to argue that he had never heard the song and although he contended there was no intent, the court said that subconscious infringement was still infringement.
Let’s assume for a moment that Coldplay did not intentionally steal Joe’s song. (And if they did, they were idiots – couldn’t you guys at least change the key?).
The question is did they have access to hear Joe’s original work? Joe’s song certainly never got any airplay. Even my rock and roll guitar partner Ryan had never heard of it. This will be very interesting to see how it plays out. The chord structure is nothing novel, it’s really all about the melody.