Bittersweet Symphony, copyright controversy

In 1997 an English alternative rock band named “The Verve” released a song named Bittersweet Symphony. The song would eventually reach number 12 on the Billboard 100 list in 1998. The song featured a sample from “The Andrew Oldman Orchestra” of The Last Time by “The Rolling Stones.” This 4-bar sample was used with the permission of both Andrew Loog Oldman and Allen Klein. Andrew Loog Oldman was the original manager of “The Rolling Stones” and the copyright holder of the orchestral version of the song. Allen Klein was also manager of “The Rolling Stones” for a period of time and his label, ABKCO Records, is copyright holder for the studio recording of The Last Time.

After the song was released, “The Verve” was sued for sampling too much of The Last Time by both Oldham and Klein. In the end “The Verve” lost composer credits for the song, copyrights and royalties. When Bittersweet symphony was nominated for a Grammy, the credits were given to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. The song was featured in a Nike ad, which had been refused when “The Verve” held rights to the song.

This scenario indicates to me that there is something wrong with the way copyrights work in America today. Without a doubt content creators deserve to be compensated for their work, but when they are given too much power, for too much time, copyrights stifle future creativity. In this case, two men who had no part in the production of the original work were able to file suit and take right for a derivative work.

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