Tribute? Stealing? Just innocent influence? Where to draw the line?

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
Five years ago, I accused Tobias Sammet (singer/songwriter of Edguy and Avantasia) of not being very original when it comes to his choice of titles and even lyrics. He used many things (Maiden and Bruce!) that were used before. For the ones interested, see this topic on our own forum.

I know that many bands borrow things from many other bands. But when it comes to ONE band, borrowing things from ONE other band, or just a few other bands, and use this material for ONE album, it immediately attracts my attention.

Tobias Sammet's case was mainly a case about titles and lyrics. After my accusation, he starting using totally different topics and titles for his songs (now Edguy is a kind of Bon Jovi party rock band). It might have nothing to do with me, but I find it a very funny coincidence.

Recently I experienced a bit of a deja-vu.

This time it's the band Gamma Ray. I really like Gamma Ray, and their latest album "Land of the Free II" is very enjoyable. However, I find it unfair not to mention all the musical "influences" they have used for it.

-How Many Tears (Helloween)
-Road To Hell (Bruce Dickinson)
-Flash of the Blade (Iron Maiden)
-The Longest Day (Iron Maiden)
-Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (Iron Maiden)
-The Clairvoyant (Iron Maiden)
-Out of the Shadows (Iron Maiden)
-Exciter (Judas Priest)
-Tears Of The Dragon (Bruce Dickinson)


All on one album! I sent an e-mail to Bruce Dickinson's radio show (couldn't find any other address), because I'm curious what he might do with it or what he might think of it. You might wonder why I didn't contact Gamma Ray myself, but I'm a bit afraid that they would remove that video from youtube. I can't imagine that they would be happy with such attention. Perhaps this whole matter will slowly fade, anyway..

Judge yourself, if you like. These are the things I found out myself:

Leaving Hell (chorus)
-Road to Hell (Bruce Dickinson)

Opportunity (starting from 4.19)
-The Clairvoyant (Iron Maiden)

Insurrection (starting from 7.03)
-Exciter (Judas Priest)

Insurrection (2 vocal melody lines: 1 from 8.10-8.16. 2 from 8.25-8.31)
-last line before chorus Tears of the Dragon (Bruce Dickinson)

In this youtube film someone else made a compilation of other songs, including Maiden's:

-Flash of the Blade
-Out of the Shadows
-The Longest Day
-Rime of the Ancient Mariner
 
Last edited:

Yax

Ancient Mariner
Re: A Tribute? Stealing? Just innocent influence?

Kai did at least rip off "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". I read in an interview with Kai, that he put that bit in the song just for the time being. The others in the band wanted to replace it, but Kai coudl't find anything that was better, so he kept it.

Anyway, I don't think that the others were all coincidences either.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
Re: A Tribute? Stealing? Just innocent influence?

Yax said:
Kai did at least rip off "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". I read in an interview with Kai, that he put that bit in the song just for the time being. The others in the band wanted to replace it, but Kai coudl't find anything that was better, so he kept it.

Anyway, I don't think that the others were all coincidences either.

Indeed. That one is also in the youtube clip I just mentioned. That is from their one but last album.
 

LooseCannon

Enterprise-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
Some of them don't sound so similar to me, others really, really do (like the Out of the Shadows one and the Clairvoyant one).
 

Albie

Keeping an open eye on the Weeping Angels.
I could give you another vague(ish) example of Gamma Ray and their influences - Space Eater has a very similar opening to Metallica's Seek and Destroy. Judge for yourself.
 

Albie

Keeping an open eye on the Weeping Angels.
I was talking about the first 60 seconds of the track more than anything. :)

However, I must stress that when people write music and they have a strong deep rooted influence elsewhere, I would guess it would be pretty tough to not sound too dissimilar - this is why so many power metal acts have that Maiden comparison drawn against them.

Or, another good example of tribute/plagiarism/call it whatever you will is The Jam and Start compared to Taxman by The Beatles. Paul Weller of The Jam has never dismissed his love of The Beatles - and it shows.
 

Dr. Eddies Wingman

Brighter than thousand_suns
Look up the videos named "Metal that sounds like other metal" on Youtube, there are many more examples. I think it's 9 or 10 videos, each between 3 and 4 minutes long.

Some of the comparisons are far-fetched in that the similarity isn't that obvious. Some other are weak because they compare simple chord progressions that are overused anyway. But there are some quite interesting ones as well.

In the first 2-3 videos there is a healthy amount of Megadeth-Metallica comparisons  :)
 

Invader

Ancient Mariner
The Gamma Ray ones are mostly very obvious (with the Maiden comparisons I made the link straight away, except in Flash of the Blade).  I also checked the metal that sounds like other metal but some of those seemed a bit far-fetched to me.  In some cases, they compared two seconds of melody that sounded marginally the same and they were supposed to be the "same songs".  In another, they compared The Four Horsemen (Metallica) to Mechanix (Megadeth), but conveniently left out the fact that Dave Mustaine wrote the Metallica song but used it in Megadeth when they split up...  So it seemed a bit unreliable to me. 

Though, to be fair, I'll admit that Mustaine does have a tendency to "take influences".
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
Albie said:
I was talking about the first 60 seconds of the track more than anything. :)

So the first 60 seconds of the Metallica song compared with the forst 60 seconds of the GR song (so in both cases from the very beginning?)? Can't hear that, to be honest.
 

Raven

Ancient Mariner
Forostar said:
So the first 60 seconds of the Metallica song compared with the forst 60 seconds of the GR song (so in both cases from the very beginning?)? Can't hear that, to be honest.

Agreed.  It's a very simple riff that GR are using, ditto with the main riff of Seek and Destroy.

As for those videos, it's the same deal.  A lot of them are comparing very similar riffs that are ultimately built around two or three chords.  As most of the examples are in fairly simple time and the scales are the good old pentatonic, there are bound to be some comparisons.  Listen to Venom's 'Welcome to Hell'.  Hear '2 Minutes To Midnight'?  Both songs uses the same 2 power chords in A.  As do most of the other songs compared to the Maiden classic.

However, there's one which I've found which really is a bit iffy.
Kreator - Extreme Aggression (1989)
Trivium - Detonation (2006)

Judge for yourself.

In terms of 'tribute vs. plagiarism', it's really a matter of scale.  Whereas bands like Maiden borrowed musical ideas from, say, Beckett, and yet also wrote a plethora of their own ideas, nearly every Trivium riff can be traced back to Slaughter of the Soul, Master of Puppets etc.

Oh, and it also helps if you like the band, then you can be more willing to defend them (Nomad Soul, 'Stranger to Myself'...yeah, of course you didn't notice it sounded like Sign of the Cross, Freaky... :p).
 

Dr. Eddies Wingman

Brighter than thousand_suns
Invader said:
In another, they compared The Four Horsemen (Metallica) to Mechanix (Megadeth), but conveniently left out the fact that Dave Mustaine wrote the Metallica song but used it in Megadeth when they split up...  So it seemed a bit unreliable to me. 

Though, to be fair, I'll admit that Mustaine does have a tendency to "take influences".

Yes, that one was a bit silly - and by the way, I was surprised to find that nobody had done the same for The Call of Ktulu (Metallica) and Hangar 18 (Megadeth) - the story is the same here. Mustaine co-wrote The Call of Ktulu and so he had every right to use the idea in another song. (Although for these two songs, there is only the chord progression in Hangar 18's main riff which is similar to the third riff in The Call of Ktulu - Mechanix and The Four Horsemen are much more similar).

By the way, listened to Rust In Peace yesterday. Hangar 18 is one excellent song.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
This is the part that I meant and indeed this is similar. So I agree very much.

But I was trying to tell you that these are not the very beginnings of the songs involved. Correct me if I'm wrong of course, but in Space Eater's case we hear another riff first. I think Seek & Destroy also has a different beginning. BTW, thanks for that Space Eater link. I never knew they recorded a video for that song (Kai Hansen moves like Janick Gers)!  :ok:

The high screaming part from 2.52 I like a lot (and later the solo as well, fantastic!!).

Here a nice live version where Ralf Scheepers delivers the goods.
 

Onhell

Infinite Dreamer
As for what is "influence" or "stealing" it's not that fine of a line really. Someone who is influenced by an artist doesn't hesitate to credit that artist, if it's for a song, album or ten of them. Those who steal merely play dumb or deny doing such a thing.

As for Edguy, I do think it is just a coincidence that they (Sammett anyway) changed after your observations. Everything changed, from their artwork to subject matter in their songs. Vainglory Opera up to Tears of a Mandrake was very over the top choral power metal, while Hellfire's club and Rocket Ride as you observed are more straightforward "party" hard rock... merely a change in musical direction which coincides with their wider international recognition, selling out? maybe, but they are not THAT popular haha.
 

Maidenfreak

Ancient Mariner
Raven said:
Oh, and it also helps if you like the band, then you can be more willing to defend them (Nomad Soul, 'Stranger to Myself'...yeah, of course you didn't notice it sounded like Sign of the Cross, Freaky... :p).

What are you trying to say? It's nothing like Sign of the Cross... nothing like it!!! I repeat... N O T H I N G !!! I hate Maiden anyway...
 

Cornfed Hick

Ancient Mariner
The Out of the Shadows/Insurrection comparison is about as blatant as one can get, as is the No World Order rip-off of Bruce Dickinson's Road to Hell (it sounds more like that than the Helloween song).  Having litigated some copyright infringement cases, I know something about this topic, though Forostar is correct that there is no bright-line rule.  Some of these songs are "strikingly similar" to other songs, which is one test applied by the U.S. courts in copyright cases.  If sued, Gamma Ray may have serious problems.  Notably, "innocent influence" is not really a defense, at least under U.S. law.  The most famous example of this is George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," which copies directly the melody from the Chiffons' "He's So Fine."  Harrison's copying was unintentional -- the melody was in his brain, but he didn't realize it was because he had heard it before -- but nevertheless he was liable.  In contrast, independent creation is okay -- the famous hypothetical of a monkey accidentally typing Hamlet would not be copyright infringement (even if Shakespeare's works were still protected by copyright law).  However, as Gamma Ray presumably is well aware of Iron Maiden's catalog, and thus had "access" to the works, I doubt they could credibly make this argument. 

Calling these songs "tributes" could be a defense, under the fair use doctrine.  Those are pretty murky legal waters, however.  The U.S. Copyright Act sets forth the factors for considering whether a use of a prior work is "fair":  1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; 2) the nature of the copyrighted work; 3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and 4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.  How these factors should be applied in practice is the subject of volumes and volumes of caselaw and scholarly commentary. 

The fair use doctrine allows one to write a novel in which a character quotes another copyrighted work, and also allows literary critics to quote passages from the subject work.  It also covers parodies and could protect some form of tribute or homage.  In music, there has been some litigation over the use of sampling, which courts have generally frowned upon, even though, in my view, some sampling clearly is an homage and should fall within the fair use doctrine.  For example, the Beastie Boys' first album sampled a short snippet of the riff from Led Zeppelin's The Ocean.  That was probably okay, because it was a very short sample, did not use the entire riff, and was not used continuously throughout the song.  In contrast, they were sued for their sampling of Bonzo's drum track from When the Levee Breaks, which was more problematic because it was used throughout the entire song.  [Led Zeppelin, for their part, has been known to "borrow" musical themes, as well.  Much has been written on that subject.]  Sampling uses the actual track recorded by the original artist.  What appears to be going on here is copying of the musical composition (i.e., the song or the sheet music), as opposed to the sound recording (i.e., the record).  Under U.S. law, these are very different concepts, are subject to different protections, and different people can hold the right to a song (usually the artist or a publishing company) and the sound recording (usually the record company).  Anyone can record another person's song if you get a license, and such licenses are compulsory if you jump through the proper hoops.  For example, I could give notice that I plan to record my own cover version of Paschendale under the compulsory licensing provisions of the Act, and there is nothing Steve or Adrian could do to stop me.  I would simply have to pay a royalty at the statutory rate for use of the song.  If I wanted to use the actual Iron Maiden sound recording, say, in a film, I would need to negotiate a license directly from the owner of the rights to the sound recording, which I think is Sanctuary Records. 

If Gamma Ray obtained a compulsory license, they would not be liable for copyright infringement.  However, they may still be liable for false designation of origin, if they failed to properly credit the original songwriter.  In the U.S., that is the subject of the Lanham Act and state law, not the Copyright Act. 

Tangentially related footnote: For those of you who are musicians and are interested in a music career, I cannot recommend more strongly Donald Passman's book, All You Need To Know About The Music Business.  [Additional text omitted and re-posted on "Musicians" bulletin board.] 
 

Genghis Khan

Ancient Mariner
Wow, cornfed, it sounds like you know a lot about this stuff.  You mentioned parodies.  Would you happen to know if there is a way around parodying without the artist's permission?  I doubt it, but...  :S
 

Cornfed Hick

Ancient Mariner
The protection of parodies under the fair use doctrine assumes you don't have the original author's permission.  (If you had his or her permission, you would have a license and wouldn't need to rely on the fair use doctrine.  For example, I seem to recall reading that Weird Al Jankovic typically gets licenses, just to be safe, but sometimes doesn't and puts out the parody anyway.)  The U.S. Supreme Court in Luther Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, held that 2 Live Crew's use of Roy Orbison's "Oh Pretty Woman" was a parody of the original and did not infringe the copyright.  More recently, in a high-profile case in which my firm had some involvement, the trial court issued an injunction against a novel entitled The Wind Done Gone on the grounds that it copied many elements of Gone With The Wind -- it told the story from the perspective of a slave.  The federal appellate court reversed that injunction and allowed the novel to be published, holding that it was a parody of Gone With the Wind, and thus constituted fair use.  This was really a "duh" example of fair use, but nevertheless the trial court entered an injunction, which illustrates how dicey this area of the law can be -- fortunately, we helped get that decision overturned.  If possible, get a license. 
 

Genghis Khan

Ancient Mariner
Thank you.  I appreciate it.  I was ignorant of laws concerning parodies and coincidently perhpas I was thinking of Weird Al when I asked the question.
 
Top