We have written recently in this space about the controversy over whether it is appropriate to allow copyright ownership for very small note combinations in songs. Some argue that a short progression of notes is just a basic, generic element of a musical composition and too basic to grant intellectual property rights to it.
For example, we shared the news of a recent suit against Katy Perry in which a jury found that a six-note progression in one of her songs infringed on the copyright to a Christian rap song.
Now, the issue is in the news again. This time the controversy concerns a three-note hook in the megahit, Academy Award-winning song from the remake of “A Star Is Born” — “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and others. It also won two Grammys and a Golden Globe.
Songwriter Steve Ronsen claims that the progression comes from his own song called “Almost,” an obscure song released in 2012. According to Page Six, Ronsen is asking for millions of dollars to settle the claim. Lady Gaga and her lawyer are reportedly fighting the claim. Page Six reports further that Lady Gaga’s attorneys respond that the three-note hook has been in music “dating back centuries,” including in the 1978 song “Dust in The Wind” by the band Kansas.
Page Six quotes Ronsen’s lawyer as saying that they have given Gaga’s team a musicologist report that finds “significant … similarities” between the hooks of the two songs and is waiting for an “opposing musicologist report.”
We will keep readers apprised of where this case goes and of any further developments in this controversial area of copyright law in music.