?The Verve Intellectual Property Case: A Bittersweet Example
Intellectual property’s tentacles are long and strong. Maybe the largest battlefield in IP is the music industry. Composer, producers, interpreters and license owners might get unexpectedly involved in legal battles regarding the misuse or abuse of a song of their property. Sometimes it is just something as little as a sample of the song but are legal frictions can deal with millions and millions of dollars.
Time is not an issue to underestimate when dealing with Intellectual Property. If by any chance, you use a song that was written forty years ago, and one of its owners is still alive, he/she can claim unfair use and suddenly, legal lawsuits can flood your desk. When working with someone else’s work, you should be extremely careful, no matter if you already got permission to use it.
In 1997, the British band The Verve sampled an orchestration in one of their songs, “Bittersweet Symphony”, from the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time”. Prior the release of the album, the group did the proper negotiations concerning the license agreement with the Rolling Stones to utilize the sample. When the album came out, the song was a complete hit and reached number 23 on the Billboard Charts. After the sudden success of the song, the Rolling Stones argued that The Verve violated their license agreement because they use too much of the sample in their song. The Rolling Stones ended up collecting 100% of the loyalties of the song. Members of The Verve argued that the Stones got greedy when they noticed the sudden success of “Bittersweet Symphony”.
As a result, the Rolling Stones sold the rights over the “Bittersweet Symphony” and it became part of many commercials and publicities. Allen Klein, Rolling Stones’ manager licensed the song to Nike and to Vauxhall automobiles. Both brands utilize the melody for multi-million dollar television campaigns. Even worse, when the song was nominated for a Grammy, The Verve was not named as a nominee, but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were. This is just a little example of moral rights dealing with intellectual property. The song hit top of the charts and not one members of The Verve enjoyed a cent of its success.
If these types of situations happen with amazing groups, who supposedly are not interested in more money, anything can happen to regular people who may get exposed to these inconveniences. Get acquainted with the respective regulations and laws so that no economical issues may come up in case you are planning to use someone else’s inspiration!