Bennett, J (2013) Applying melodic analysis to infer the extent of plagiarism in popular song authorship disputes. In: PopMAC: International Conference on Analyzing Popular Music, 2 - 4 July 2013, University of Liverpool.

Official URL:


Since the 1960s disputes regarding ownership of a musical work have abounded in the Western popular music industries. Creators make claims that a work has been plagiarised, and in a small number of cases the parties go to law to fight their respective cases. Forensic musicologists are called by the courts as expert witnesses, undertaking a necessarily pedantic deconstruction of the characteristics of the works. In cases where publishing rights (as opposed to rights in the recording)are in dispute, such deconstruction is often from a melodic perspective. This perhaps leads to a special privileging of melody in copyright terms simply by virtue of the fact that it is easier to codify and therefore to protect, as Joanna Demers has argued. The frequent requirement for forensic musicologists to analyse melodies in isolation, either monophonically or in harmonic context, is arguably at odds with recent scholarly work regarding the challenges of separating song from track in analytical or creative terms. This paper will discuss the extent to which melodic anal ysis (and probability theory) can be a useful tool in inferring the originality of a song, and will discuss the practical challenges associated with drawing meaningful conclusions based on melodic analysis. It will draw on the presenter’s first-hand experience as a forensic musicologist, and attempt to identify the effectiveness of different analytical methodologies in providing evidence regarding coincidental or intentional similarity between musical works.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2014 13:36
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 14:06
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)