Radiohead may or may not have sued Lana Del Rey for copyright infringement. On the occasion of this potential controversy, the New Yorker has posted an interesting essay on the challenges of determining originality in music.
We’re situated at a complex nexus—more raw material is available to more people than at any other point in human history, yet there’s increasing bewilderment about what constitutes actual infringement. (There are also plenty of lingering, non-legal concerns about what sorts of cultural boundaries can or should be crossed, and how, and why, and by whom.) One potential byproduct of the lawsuit panic—and I stand with the musicians protesting the “Blurred Lines” settlement as unreasonable—is that there’s more incentive to throw precedent to the wind, and to imagine wild new modes. Yet there’s something lovely and comforting about the continuum—about art begetting art, about a pulse traveling down a line. The interconnections and overlaps are evidence of a mysterious symbiosis, a hand in the dark, a history. Can something come from nothing? The bigger question may be whether we want it to.
The whole piece is worth a read. This blog has covered some of these issues before, such as a discussion of a lawsuit involving a Led Zeppelin song. Mid 90s music more your taste? Cast your mind back to a discussion of a lawsuit involving derivate works of Blind Melon’s No Rain.
Can anyone think of some bold proposals for legal reform on this topic?