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Music plagiarism and music creation

Thou shalt not steal 2

Whether by sheer coincidence, inspiration or plain theft, several hit songs sound alike, so it is not unusual that you can listen to a song and find that it reminds you of another. An explanation may be that as humans we are often influenced by others in our day to day lives and the one being influenced may subconsciously or intentionally begin to sound, look, or act like the influencer.

While it may be acceptable that a budding artiste may sing and sound like Artiste A, it will be a totally different case if he samples or rips off Artiste A’s song or even creates a cover of a song by Artiste A without first taking certain steps. For those interested in making a cover version of a song, it is advisable to send a notification letter to the copyright owner of the song or his representative and to fulfill all the requirements obligated by law in order not to be dragged into a copyright infringement lawsuit.

No matter how inspired we may be by another’s music, we must always be careful to note that there is a thin line between inspiration and music plagiarism.

According to Wikipedia, music plagiarism is the use or close imitation of another author’s music while representing it as one’s own original work.



In any claim of music theft, the copyright owner must be able to establish proof of ownership of the said work, originality of the work and proof of copying by the infringer.

Proof of copying may be established through (i) direct evidence such as eyewitness testimony, admission by defendant, any recording showing the defendant in the very act, (ii) circumstantial evidence.

Since direct evidence is rarely available in cases such as this, the complainant can depend on circumstantial evidence through proof of access and substantial similarity


  1. Proof of access

The plaintiff is expected to proof that at some point, the defendant had access to the song he is alleged of copying. If the song is published, it may be easy to prove that the infringer must have heard it at some point but if it was never published, it may be very difficult to proof that he ever had access to the song.


  1. Substantial similarity

It must be established that similarities in the songs are sufficient to warrant plagiarism. Several tests may be applied to achieve this.



In the case that copyright infringement has been established, the plaintiff is entitled to several remedies. He is entitled to an injunction forbidding the infringer from making and distributing more copies of the infringing work and to deliver all original copies of the infringing work to the plaintiff. He is also entitled to actual damage and lost profits accrued from the infringing work. Also, if he so wishes, he may enter into an agreement with the infringer for future use of the infringing work.



Keep the lyrics and melody of your song to yourself until your work is finished and ready to be published. A song is considered published when it is distributed to the public by way of sale, lending, rental, lease or broadcast. It may also be considered as published when it is distributed to those who might want to record it by a music publisher. Only trusted industry professionals may have access to your work until it is published.

Join COSON to benefit from the exploitation of your work. Also, in the case of music theft, this may come in handy to prove ownership of the said work.

If your work is a product of joint authorship, an agreement should be entered in writing by all parties involved and a split sheet created to show ownership of rights and the percentage of ownership of the rights.


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