Plagiarism in music is not a new phenomenon – in fact, there are still arguments over what plagiarism is. In hip-hop, producers and artist live by sampling, which is the looping of a particular bit of a song, rather than the whole song, to come up with a new sound.
A music icon like Diddy is an example of a music producer who pays hefty prices to get particular samples – but you also get artists who just sample a song without asking or paying for permission, which gets them in hot water.
The Vanilla Ice method of blatantly stealing a song and hoping nobody notices may work, but if you get into trouble, you are bound to pay.
Here are five acts who have been accused of stealing other musicians’ songs, starting with the latest scandal to hit SA:
1. Distruction Boyz – “Omunye“
A recent investigation has found that Distruction Boyz’ summer hit “Omunye” was indeed plagiarised. A City Press report on Sunday confirmed the rumours – the publication detailed a forensic copyright investigation that found the track was stolen from DJ Lag, whose “Trip To New York” was released months before “Omunye“.
Have a listen to both, and make up your own mind:
While the lyrics are different, the music on “Omunye” is identical to that on “Trip to New York“.
2. Robin Thicke – “Blurred Lines”
Robin Thicke’s biggest hit song turned out to be one of the biggest steals in the music industry. The 2013 hit gained worldwide popularity – which did not sit well with the heirs of the late Marvin Gaye.
Robin Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. were ordered after a lawsuit to pay around R88-million to the Gaye estate for their blatant rip-off of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up“.
Once again, listen to the rhythm and beats of both, and hear if it blurs the lines:
Here is Thicke’s “Blurred Lines“.
3. Justin Bieber – “Sorry“
It’s not too late to say sorry, Justin Bieber. It would seem he was singing for forgiveness in 2015, because in 2016 an indie artist by the name of White Hinterland sued Bieber for “Sorry“.
It was alleged that Bieber – and Skrillex, who is also credited on the song – stole an eight-second vocal which is the foundation of Bieber’s song. Have a listen for yourself.
Here is the eight-second Hinterland vocal that Bieber allegedly swiped:
And here is “Sorry“.
4. Vanilla Ice – “Ice, Ice, Baby“
In what was an unprecedented feat by Vanilla Ice, his song “Ice, Ice, Baby” was the first hip-hop song to top the Billboard charts.
However, that achievement was soon tarnished, because Queen and David Bowie – as any of their fans knew instantly the first time they heard the song – recognised their riff from “Under Pressure” in Vanilla Ice’s 1989 hit, and sued him.
Vanilla Ice may have invented the method of blatantly stealing a song and hoping nobody notices, but he also proved that you’re bound to pay the price – Queen and Bowie were eventually credited for the riff and compensated.
5. Ray Parker Jr – “Ghostbusters“
Ray Parker Jr reportedly had a couple of days to write the “Ghostbusters” movie soundtrack. So he either genuinely created a song from scratch in that time that just happened to sound awfully like “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis, or he panicked and stole it.
Both ended up two of the biggest songs in the 80s – because of the film in the case of “Ghostbusters“, and the controversy over the plagiarism in the case of “I Want a New Drug“.
Here is the “I Want a New Drug” from Huey Lewis. Who you gonna call?
And here is Parker’s “Ghostbusters“.
Today, many artists have trouble clearing samples for songs. J Cole said in his “2014 Forest Hills Drive” song “Note To Self” that an artist should not have to go through so much trouble for clearance on a piece of art they want to use [sample].
However, plagiarism in the music industry isn’t only about music. A British-Liberian artist has claimed that the “Black Panther” soundtrack used her artwork without permission in Kendrick Lamar’s music video for “All The Stars“.