Lana Del Rey faces the wrath of Thom Yorke and co’s lawyers for reportedly stealing Creep, which Radiohead have already been successfully sued for.
Whose song is it? How do you decide when someone owns a melody, can a chord progression be copyright? These are pretty tricky questions that are often unfortunately answered these days by whoever has the most money.
A new high-profile case doing the rounds concerns Lana Del Rey and popular indie rock band Radiohead. The case refers to Del Rey’s song ‘Get Free’ for her latest album Lust For Life which Radiohead, or at least their lawyers, say is a copy of their 90’s hit Creep.
If you listen to the tracks you can clearly hear side-by-side the comparisons, with the exact same chord structure and progression for each. But this raises a difficult question; Where do you draw the line in music as to what you own? You can’t own a melody can you? Well to an extent, but the lines are still blurred. Which is why cases like these are still so controversial.
Any original recordings by an artist are in their possession but the musical work, meaning the lyrics, the melody, the chords, and so on, are all owned by the songwriter or whoever they signed those rights away to. So that means anyone else who created music using those works would technically be in breach of their copyright. Can you write anything original now? Well yes, music is broad and subjective that it’s very rare that you’ll be accused for copying unless you specifically have, but it still creates an uncertain landscape for writers.
In the case of Radiohead and Lana Del Rey it’s even more interesting because Radiohead have already been successfully sued for Creep. That case involved The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies which again features a chord progression that is almost pitch perfect to Creep. This resulted in Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood being credited as co-writers for Creep and receiving split royalties with the band.
So where do you draw the line? Or do we just continue in a chain of lawsuits until everyone in the world techincally owns a piece of every musical work ever? At least then the playing field would be level again.