UPDATE 1-U.K. rockers Coldplay deny plagiarism accusation

Tue Dec 9, 2008 7:39pm EST

(adds "mash-up," legal opinion)

LOS ANGELES Dec 9 (Reuters) - British rock band Coldplay on Tuesday denied virtuoso guitarist Joe Satriani's accusation that it ripped off one of his instrumentals, saying any similarities were "entirely coincidental.

Satriani filed a copyright infringement suit in Los Angeles last Thursday, claiming Coldplay's hit single "Viva La Vida" incorporates "substantial original portions" of his 2004 song "If I Could Fly."

The 52-year-old guitarist is seeking a jury trial, damages and "any and all profits" attributable to the alleged copyright infringement.

But Coldplay, whose soaring atmospheric tunes have been unfavorably compared to those of Irish rock band U2, brushed off the allegations.

"If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental and just as surprising to us as to him," the band said in a posting on its website.

"Joe Satriani is a great musician but he did not write or have any influence on the song 'Viva La Vida.' We respectfully ask him to accept our assurances of this and wish him well with all future endeavors."

Satriani sued Coldplay a day after the band received seven Grammy nominations, second only to rapper Lil Wayne.

The nominations included the important record and song of the year categories for "Viva La Vida," which comes from the band's chart-topping album "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends."

The song is credited to the band's four members -- singer Chris Martin, bass player Guy Berryman, guitarist Johnny Buckland and drummer Will Champion. The title was inspired by a painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

The Satriani track comes from his album "Is There Love in Space?" Some enterprising fans have created "mash-ups" of the songs, overlaying Satriani's guitar playing over the Coldplay tune to indicate that they seem to share similar chord and melodic structures.

Intellectual property attorney Oren J. Warshavsky, a New York-based partner with national law firm Baker Hostetler, said Satriani could prevail by proving "striking similarity" between the two compositions. The law would then assume the only explanation for the similarities must be copying rather than coincidence, he said.

Additionally, Satriani could point out that his song is already published and widely disseminated, which "may be a more logical and compelling argument" then Coldplay's allegation that this is merely the result of coincidence, he said.

A court also could find that Coldplay copied the song unconsciously, Warshavsky said. This issue tripped up balladeer Michael Bolton, who lost a case against the Isley Brothers over their similarly named tunes "Love Is a Wonderful Thing." George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" also was deemed to be an unconscious copy of the Chiffons' "He's So Fine." But in a complicated legal twist, the former Beatle ultimately ended up as the owner of the Chiffons song. (Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Philip Barbara and Bill Trott)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.