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Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd. - 420 F. Supp. 177 (S.D.N.Y. 1976)

Rule:

Expert witnesses for the defendants asserted crucial differences in the two songs. These claimed differences essentially stem, however, from the fact that different words and number of syllables were involved. This necessitated modest alterations in the repetitions or the places of beginning of a phrase, which, however, has nothing to do whatsoever with the essential musical kernel that is involved.

Facts:

This is an action in which it is claimed that a successful song, My Sweet Lord, listing George Harrison as the composer, is plagiarized from an earlier successful song, He's So Fine, composed by Ronald Mack, recorded by a singing group called the "Chiffons," the copyright of which is owned by plaintiff, Bright Tunes Music Corp.

Issue:

Was the song “My Sweet Lord” plagiarized by defendant?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court concluded that defendant, George Harrison, in seeking musical materials, was working with various possibilities. As he tried this possibility and that, there came to his mind a particular combination that pleased him as being one he felt would be appealing to a prospective listener; in other words, that this combination of sounds would work. His subconscious knew it already had worked in a song his conscious mind did not remember. The court did not believe defendant did so deliberately. Nevertheless, the court found that My Sweet Lord was the very same song as He's So Fine with different words, and defendant had access to He's So Fine. This was infringement of copyright, and was no less so even though subconsciously accomplished. The court found for the plaintiff on the issue of plagiarism.

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