What do Demi Lovato, Kayne West, Taylor Swift and Adele have in common? This week, they've all been accused of stealing from other artists in their work. In some cases, the accusation seems like a bit of a stretch, but in others, it's perfectly clear to hear similarities in the work their accused of stealing. Music, and all art, is by nature referential. That's what makes it so difficult to spy plagiarism. Because you can be inspired by a piece of music and then be moved to make your own, and you're not copying.
There are obviously cut and dry cases where a riff or a lyric is lifted straight from one song to another, but what about when something sounds similar? Yes, it could be a fluke. But what if a more powerful artist really did steal from a lesser known one, knowing they could get away with it? In an ideal world, everything is done and created with the best intentions, but there's no way to know for sure. So which of these chart-topping artists ripped off someone else's work? Who's in trouble and who's getting away with it? Find out below!
1. Demi Lovato
This one seems a little more far-fetched: Taylor Swift has been accused of copying the lyrics for "Shake It Off" from an out-of-work musician going by Jessie Graham. He alleges that Swift copied the lyrics, "Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play. And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate" as well as "And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake" from a song of his that contains the lyrics, "Haters gone hate, playas gone play. Watch out for them fakers, they'll fake you everyday." Meanwhile, the melody of the songs sound completely different, but Graham insists he copyrighted "Haters Gone Hate" in 2013, with Swift's song coming out in 2014. Graham filed a suit in federal court, in which he will be representing himself, seeking $42 million in damages from Swift and Sony, and to have his name added as a song writer on "Shake if Off." Given the "fair use" of the English language here, it seems tenuous for Mr. Graham on this one. Listen to the track above and see what you think.
3. Kanye West
In 2011, Kanye West was accused by graphic designer Tom Kan of ripping off the title sequence from Gaspar Noé's Enter The Void in his Hype Williams-directed video for "All Of The Lights." This week Noé himself told the Daily Beast that he believes West and Williams really did copy his work. He said, "I was more shocked by the fact that that guy who copied all the typography of my titles put his name in it—Hype Williams—when you never usually see a director’s name in a music video. He was putting his name on it over and over! It was so weird that he was not only copying it, but adding his name into the credits over and over again. The truth is that when you put something out there, if you put any idea out there that's kind of flashy, you have many, many people that are going to be copying it. This happens whether you do movies, paintings, or music." The Daily Beast put together a composite of both sequences side by side. Watch it above and pick out the similarities.
Tom Waits' fans have a bone to pick with Adele (already!). They’ve pointed out on social media that Adele’s new song “Hello” is very similar in lyrical content to Wait’s song “Martha” from 1973. The lyrics in Waits’ track go, "Hello, hello there, is this Martha? / This is old Tom Frost, and I'm calling long distance. Don't worry 'bout the cost / Cause it's been 40 years or more, now Martha please recall / Meet me out for coffee, where we'll talk about it all." While Adele sings, "Hello, it's me / I was wondering if after all these years / You'd like to meet, to go over everything". Further to the point, Adele’s producer Greg Kurstin has said in interview that Tom Waits actually inspired Adele's new album, saying, “We talked about Tom Waits, and different storytellers like that. I think that was the idea, that we wanted to do something that was very honest about where she was at right now, and she wanted to do something that was real and believable." Listen to “Martha” above and see if you make the connection.