Hi all! I'm brand spanking new to this forum as of yesterday and thought I'd jump right in to the sticky stuff. I wrote a piece to demo as a cue in a movie I've now gotten the gig to score. Hooray for me! Anyway, a few weeks after writing it, I was singing it in my head and I had an "Oh Crap!" moment as I realized that the first 5 notes of the organ melody might be plagiarizing none other than John Williams. I would be referring specifically to his Jawa Sandcrawler theme from the original Star Wars movie. I obviously can't upload it here, but if you have the "Medley: The Dune Sea of Tatooine / Jawa Sandcrawler", it's about 1:50 in, where the part is that I'm concerned about. Now, I'm just getting into writing the actual score for this film so I've got plenty of time to change this (even though I kind of like it), but I'm mostly curious as to what you think so I can use this as a baseline to judge other future instances against. I've been writing music in one vein or another for about 20 years now and haven't really come across something that seemed so blatant, a least to me, in my own work, but as I'm getting more and more composing work, I'm writing more and more music in shorter periods of time and not having as much of a chance to sit with it before sending it out into the world, thereby increasing the chance of letting something like this (assuming you think it's something to worry about) slip by. I not only don't want to really plagiarize anybody else's work (though I'm glad and proud to show off my influences), but I REALLY don't want to be accused of it in, heaven forbid, a court of law. So... do you think this particular case is something I should worry about? I've also been trying to look around for info on what constitutes musical plagiarism, as I never took any of the kind of classes that would go into that in detail, but haven't found much info besides references to past court cases, most of which were settled out of court, or where there wasn't much info given on WHY a judgement went one way or another. I guess it's still up to whatever a "lay" listener would think (I'm running this by some of those as well). Someone did point me to this, which helped a little: http://www.piercelaw.edu/assets/pdf/pierce-law-review-vol07-no1-padgett.pdf but if any of you can point me to towards any other info on the subject, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks! and I look forward to getting totally ripped apart by your comments ; ) Fire away! (just a little self-effacing humor there. I'm really excited to be here) -Geoff


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  • Sorry, I can't seem to figure out the links for the pierce law review link. I'll try to work it out.
  • OK. got the link up now, but it's a pdf for download. about 292K.
  • I remember that when a music compo took place at CGEmpire (which is not more, sadly...), one guy made a tune that his first motif was (a bizzarre thing) as far as I remember - exact copy of Jeremy Soule's theme for Morrowind video game. He obviously copied the motif unintentionally, after various approaches of developing the melody, without being aware of the Soule's work for the game. He was as shocked as were we, participants, so he gently removed his entry. But sometimes this can occur I suppose.

    To me the accompanying background is similiar, but the organ seems to play diferent than the Jawa Sandcrawler composition.

  • Ray Kemp said:
    Answer: No........... then you shouldn't be asking this question, you have done nothing wrong.

    Well, I think George Harrison might have something to say about that. And most of the anecdotal cases I've found online seem to tend to favor the so called "original" composer in the majority of cases, though, thinking about it now, maybe that's why those cases are so well known and easy to read about.

    I know it's my first post here, but I promise I haven't generally, over the years, second guessed every piece of music I write, and don't plan on it in the future, don't worry : )

    This particular instance rubbed me the wrong way because, being an american guy in his mid-thirties, it can easily be said that I've seen Star Wars many, many times in my life, so it's not like this piece is something obscure to me. It's actually deeply imbedded in my subconscious memory, so much so that I caught the connection myself, though weeks later. It seems, though, that from the actual reactions to the pieces here and from other "lay" listeners I know, that nobody really thinks this instance, musically, would qualify as an issue of plagiarism.

    I hope, though, that it is actually OK to ask about it. It's not like I'm going to go to John Williams and seeing what he thinks, (that would be a self-destructive recipe for disaster for sure), but you all kind folks, being composers as well, I assumed would have some objectivity on the subject and maybe even some experience dealing with this seemingly taboo of subjects first hand. While I'm plenty insecure about many aspects of my life, my abilities as a musician and artist is rarely one of them, so I tend not to consider the occasional public self scrutiny as a detriment to myself, rather I've found it very helpful to my growth over the years.

    Anyway. Thanks for the replies!
    Jumping right in here, re: Plagiarism!
    Hi all! I'm brand spanking new to this forum as of yesterday and thought I'd jump right in to the sticky stuff. I wrote a piece to demo as a cue in…
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