It has recently come to light that Sam Smith is now paying royalties to Tom Petty. When some people had suggested that his hit song “Stay With Me” shared similarities with the Heartbreakers’ song “I Won’t Back Down”, it was amicably settled and now Petty receives royalties and writing credit. Much like the case of Spirit suing Led Zeppelin over similarities between their instrumental track “Taurus” and the classic “Stairway to Heaven”, I think it is quite frankly a load of rubbish. There is no doubt in my mind that no theft or copyright infringement has taken place. The similarities are very vague. There is only a limited amount of music that can be made and you can’t trademark a specific chord sequence.
There are plenty of other songs that sound much more similar and no one has made a fuss. ZZ Top’s “La Grange” riff is just a sped up version of “Spirit in the Sky”, Kansas’ song “Carry On Wayward Son” sounds awfully like Journey’s “I’m Gonna Leave You”, the pop plague that is One Direction have borrowed the opening chords from The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. For a while Queen got no credit from Vanilla Ice even though “Ice Ice Baby” directly samples “Under Pressure”. I think if a song is similar enough for it to be actually stolen then there should be no need for it to ever go to court, there should be no disagreement whatsoever, as it should sound like a carbon copy of the original and 99% of times that just isn’t the case.