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Image for The Honest Musician's Fear of Accidental Plagiarism

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Last on

Sat 5 Nov 2011 10:30 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 27 January 2011

Many musicians have found themselves accused of stealing from another artist. It's every songwriter's biggest fear - that really great phrase or lyric you thought was all your own creation turns up in another song. There are few musicians who would admit to stealing even if caught red handed, but what happens if the theft was unintentional? And what if you heard lines from one of your songs in someone else's work? Would you immediately reach for the lawyers phone number or would you let it go without complaint if the offending writer 'fessed up? Musicians assimilate what is around them and even the finest tunesmiths derive inspiration by drawing on and re-adapting existing popular music. So is any song really original?

As Noel Gallagher put it rather bluntly when confronted about his musical influences: "There's twelve notes in a scale and 36 chords and that's the end of it. All the configurations have been done before."

Singer and songwriter Guy Garvey, with the help of fellow songwriters Sir Tim Rice, Paul Heaton and John Bramwell, explores the legal pitfalls that can befall the honest musician and how to avoid them.

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