Getting into the middle of a plagiarism dispute between hot British band Coldplay and legendary American guitarist Joe Satriani has made Winnipeg music teacher Andrew Wasson a minor Internet star, writes the Toronto Star.
Last December, Wasson, owner of Creative Guitar Studio, did a nine-minute analysis of the similarities between Coldplay's 2009 Grammy-winning song of the year, "Viva La Vida," and Satriani's 2004 instrumental, "If I Could Fly."
His conclusion, based on comparisons of rhythm, melody and harmony: Satriani's claim that the Coldplay song was a rip-off of his own tune is essentially true. Since then, Wasson's video on YouTube has received more than 670,000 views and earned him a coveted place in YouTube's Partner Program, earning him a modest monthly income.
"The opportunity for me arose to go and do that video, and build some traffic and build a little bit of recognition for myself on YouTube, and it's worked really well. I kind of figured it would go pretty viral," Wasson said.
Wasson also received numerous calls from lawyers and a very complimentary email from a professor at Boston's Berklee College of Music. Wasson has gone from zero to close to 1,500 regular subscribers to his website and drawn the ire of countless Coldplay fans. "There's people that are obviously Coldplay fans that are essentially creating fake accounts and they're ... spamming my videos with comments that are derogatory, everything from `You did it all wrong' to `You're crazy.' That's putting it nicely. I thought that was very strange."
The dispute remains unresolved since Satriani filed suit in December, although Coldplay members have hotly denied his contention. But Howard King, Satriani's lawyer, said Coldplay has hired a high-profile legal firm in California to handle the suit after it became clear that the group's appearance at the 2009 Grammys in Los Angeles could be marred by the embarrassment of having the legal documents served on them publicly.
"We did have some service challenges, but once we made it known we were going to serve them at the Grammys ... they had a lawyer contact us, who agreed to accept service on their behalf," King said.
Both sides have set a tentative trial date for spring 2010, but King said they'll also hold "private mediation" talks in late July. "Cases like this either go to trial and have unpredictable and sometimes devastating results for one side or the other ... or get resolved behind closed doors. There is going to be an attempt in late July to see if the case is capable of being resolved behind closed doors," King said. Russell Frackman, representing Coldplay, had no comment.
Two other plagiarism accusations have since emerged, one from the former Cat Stevens that "Viva La Vida" strongly resembles his song "Foreigner Suite," and one – possibly from Coldplay fans – that Satriani's song is a rip-off of an Argentinean group's song, "Frances Limon."
For the record, Wasson has done a similar analysis of both songs and concluded that, despite some similarities, they are not the same. And that has only deepened his conviction that Coldplay may have some explaining to do.
"You look at the Coldplay and Satriani pieces and you go, `These two pieces are the same,'" Wasson said.
Coldplay at the New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA (10 June 2009):
Pictures from the Times-Picayune