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The Yamaha Motor Corporation is being sued for using Creed‘s 1999 chart-topping hit, Higher, in a commercial for motorcycles.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Florida District Court by Tremonti/Stapp Music, a publishing company set up by vocalist Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti. They claim that Yamaha used the musical composition in an advertisement broadcast during the 2010 Indianapolis 500 auto race and continued to air the advertisement afterwards.
It’s unclear from the complaint whether the commercial is alleged to have included a snippet from the actual sound recording or whether Yamaha allegedly recreated the song for its commercial. (We were unable to contact the plaintiff’s lawyer.)
It would hardly be surprising if it’s the latter.
Recently, a growing number of musicians have expressed frustration at advertisers for ripping off music with nearly identical facsimiles of songs.
For example, popular Icelandic band Sigur Ros recently blogged about the practice of advertisers who may be slyly getting around permission slips and licensing fees. The band said they never license their songs for commercials, but often hear advertisements with “strangely similar” music. The band said it had no interest in suing or directly accusing advertisers of plagiarism, but wished to raise the issue.
Since then, others in the music community have also started thinking about the topic. Pitchfork, an influential indie music website, recently pointed to other commercials where it appeared that an advertiser had taken music from prominent indie bands by changing a note here and there.
Only a matter of time before this spilled into a courtroom. We’ll have to find out more about the Creed case to see if this is the test case — or whether Creed is alleging a literal theft. If anybody has seen the commercial, let us know in the comment section.
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