Daft Plagiarism? What’s the limit to music copying?

Image   French duo Daft Punk’s talent is undeniable. This was proved at the 2014 Grammy ceremony, when their album, , was awarded prizes in several categories, among which, Best Album, Single of the Year and Live Performance, for the song Get Lucky.

Talents aside, Daft Punk also became known for plagiarizing. Or, at least for using samples (some phrase or fragment from something bigger) in their compositions written by other artists, without their permission and without giving them the due credit. One of them is One More Time, in which the duo denies having used part of the song More Spell On You, by Eddie Johns. This allegation is refuted in this video, which attempt to demonstrate how this supposed pasting was done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sdtOpE_3aQ

The abovementioned and prize-getting Get Lucky has been center of arguments on account of its similarity with the Robot Dance, by Korean guitarist Jack Kim, who had composed it two years before: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ_p3sM7KvM

Kim’s composition, based on the repetition of a basic 4-chord progression, was also used by Daft Punk in their music. However, the use of the same chord progression does not constitute plagiarism. Moreover, it is worthwhile highlighting that works like those by Daft Punk explore common chord-progressive repetitions, something characteristic of several electronic music segments.

Another famous suspicion of plagiarism by the French duo, again regarding Get Lucky, lies over the song Cliché, by the North-American band Hey Champ. Even a video has even been made comparing both compositions played at the same time to help people understand the similarity between them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpkqgJDl7qw

Nevertheless, in its official Facebook page, Hey Champ published a text denying that their song had been plagiarized by Daft Punk.   One of this discussion’s main point was the fact that Get Lucky was awarded Grammy 2014’s Best Single of the Year price, something which aroused the anger of a great number of electronic music fans, who argued that this was a clear case of plagiarism.

We are currently living in an age of remix, in which anyone, with a basic knowledge of certain technologies is capable of transforming, editing and sharing audiovisual content. This has become the target of several social segments, chiefly, on copyright issues, especially in musical works of great media exposure and sales success. Penalties for copyright violations are usually enforced when plagiarism is detected.

Finally, regarding similarity between songs being ever more common nowadays, some experts warn against the possible exhaustion of combinations between music notes to create new melodies. Some artists also declare having difficulties to compose new songs today. Will we listen to increasingly similar music? In my view, I trust men’s creativity and power of innovation.

Leo Morel is Professor of Culture and Media Studies at FGV/IDE-Rio, author of the book Music and Technology; he is also a professional musician.


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