While listening music, you might notice songs which make you go “that sounds familiar”. But still, you decide to ignore it and forget about it. And even if you do realize the exact song, you might suppose the rights were bought or given…
Some recent examples of songs which use tunes of other songs are Ava Max‘s “My Head & My Heart” which uses the tune of the Russian song “Песенка” by “Руки Вверх!“, (not “All Around The World by ATC” as a lot of sources incorrectly claim, which is a cover as well of the previous said Russian song,) and “Hold Me” by Marnik and Tiscore, which uses the tune of the Jewish folk song “Hava Nagila“.
The original music video for “Песенка” by “Руки Вверх!”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t controversies. One such example is by the previously named Italian DJ duo Marnik (and SMACK), which released the song “Gam Gam”, a ‘remixed’ version of the song with the same name by “Elie Botbol”, which is again based on (and uses text from) Psalm 23. It got a lot of hate in primarily Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries over claims of it being “cultural appropriation” and being disrespectful to both Jews and Christians. Whether it’s true, that’s something I let you decide yourself.
The original song “Gam Gam” by “Elie Botbol”
Now, you might still assume that it’s all done within the boundaries of the law. Well, I didn’t specifically keep this focused upon the Dutch Spinnin’ Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music. As in 2017, the Dutch DJ duo Blasterjaxx and the Australian DJ Timmy Trumpet released the song “Narco”. For most of you, it might sound like a fully original song, which it is not. Listen to the Belgian song “Zuipe!” by “Katastroof” and you will instantly recognize the tune. And in this case, stealing is probably the only correct word to use, as Belgian newspapers confirm.
“The Dutch plagiarize ‘Zuipe!’ by Katastroof: Sabam cannot intervene”, so states the Belgian newspaper “Het Laatste Nieuws” on the 16th of December 2017. As the newspaper states, SABAM (Belgian music licensing organization) states that a “musicological and non-binding research” could be performed, but this would cost 1500 Euros. Katastroof was unwilling to pay this sum because it’s obvious to anyone that it’s plagiarized, which I have to personally agree with.
Blasterjaxx didn’t comment upon this at all, even though multiple people tried to get a response of the Dutch DJ duo. Also the song with currently almost 29 million views on the YouTube channel of Spinnin’ Records remains without any mention to Katastroof.
Let’s be honest here, not all DJs plagiarize, as most of the times the right are obtained beforehand. It’s not without a reason that while checking the record labels DJs are managed by and the record labels behind the artists of songs they cover, that in almost all cases these are identical or directly related. However, there are actually a surprisingly large amount of cases where the rights were not obtained at all. In most cases, though, it’s because the artists of the original songs are just not active anymore and probably don’t even care at all that their song got covered or re-released.
The simple fact is, when you listen to a song, you should be able to know whether the necessary rights are obtained. As at the end of the day, plagiarizing is still a form of stealing. And especially when it comes to DJs, it’s too often unknown whether the required royalties, however small they might be, are actually paid to the original authors of songs.
But the reality is, this problem will remain as long as copyright laws are national, and not international. And so I will hope that an organization like the United Nations one day dares to actually bring the world together… But until then, I will listen “Очи чёрные” by Gad Elbaz and Avi Benjamin, a song based on the romance with the same name by the Russian-Ukrainian Yevhen Hrebinka…