Musicians Should be able to Borrow from Others

Instruments sit ready to be played in Mr. Magaro’s band room at CV high school. Photo Credit: Luke Needham 

By Bennett Sauder ‘24

In the world of music, musicians should be able to copy or borrow from other musical artists. However, both copying and borrowing must be done in a professional and truthful manner.

Musical genres such as Pop, Country, and R&B follow the same sonic approach. Melodies, beats, and chord progressions are used time and again. As a musician myself, creating a 100% original piece is almost impossible. According to Emichaelmusic, “Notation (in every system from every country I have studied), always requires at the very least a modicum of interpretation, and interpretation requires intentional creating, composing or authoring.”

The problem comes when musicians borrow too closely, without adding enough of their original interpretation. Take Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” for example. If one would copy her chord progressions, beat, and every instrumental aspect but only change the lyrics, she would be able to “attack” you in court, which could lead to you being fined or worse. 

If instead you keep your music in the same key, with the same chords arranged differently, a different beat and new lyrics, the chance of being fined is brought down exponentially. If you change the arrangement of the chords, chose to a different beat and different lyrics, then the song can be considered more fully yours.

In my experience, referencing another piece is overwhelmingly helpful. The risk to this is that you can unconsciously start to copy things from the original piece, without incorporating your own spice, which would make you responsible if you are fined.

Consequences to being caught could include fines, lawsuits, and overall the ordeal lasting months, or even years. While some say that these consequences are good, and should be kept in the system, I disagree. While these consequences live in artists’ minds and keep them in line, these decisions when made in court are done by non-musicians and people who have no knowledge of music whatsoever. As the NY Times says, “Juries filled with non-music experts are ill-suited to make decisions in cases that come down to issues between musicologists.” Juries that are filled with these people, in my opinion, have no right to determine an answer to a problem between musicians. They don’t have the knowledge and background to make a just decision.

In conclusion, the consequences of copying or borrowing from another artist are well-deserved at times, but overall, musicians should be able to borrow or copy from other artists’ music to help spark creativity and bring in new ideas to past music. 


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