🧑‍🎤 Deja sue: What the fight over Olivia Rodrigo songs says about copyright law 

As if dealing with a tough ex who drops you just before you learn to drive isn’t enough hurt. Olivia Rodrigo, one of the biggest music sensations in 2021, is feeling financial pain, too, after assigning royalties to the likes of Taylor Swift and Paramore. 

The tale of Rodrigo provides interesting insight into the state of music and copyright law, according to The Ringer.

  • Musicians used to build off one another without much fear of legal issues: But then came the decision that Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” infringed on a Marvin Gaye song. While the legal questions at hand were very esoteric and specific, artists began worrying about making songs that simply sounded too much like tracks from the past.

  • This is what happened to Rodrigo: Her songs clearly sound like they have been inspired by the likes of Swift and Paramore even though she says she didn’t purposefully take from those artists. But to avoid any litigation, Rodrigo assigned writing credits to Paramore for the song “Good for You,” which is musically similar to “Misery Business.” She did the same to Swift for “Deja Vu.” 

Music copyright cases usually turn on this major factor 

One attorney told The Ringer “intent doesn’t matter.” But “you still need to prove access.” I.E. the artist has to somehow be aware of the song they are allegedly taking from. 

The Verdict

Sometimes legal damages just boil down to whether a musician cares. Lorde’s summer hit “Solar Power” sounded just like Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up,” but he didn’t mind, saying on Twitter, “It’s how rock and roll works.”