Coldplay settles Satriani lawsuit

Joe Satriani’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Coldplay has been settled, Satriani’s rep tells Billboard. Last December, Satriani sued the British soft rockers, claiming that “Viva La Vida” ripped off his song “If I Could Fly.” But the legal dispute was resolved Tuesday with an undisclosed settlement between the two parties.

Satriani wasn’t the only artist who felt Coldplay was aping his material. Back in May, Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) also claimed “Viva La Vida” was too close to one of his songs, 1973’s “Foreigner  Suite.” When asked if he might file suit against Coldplay, he responded: “It depends on how well Satriani does.”

Stevens has changed his tune since then, deciding the musical similarities weren’t intentional. He even offered “to sit down and have a cup of tea with them and let them know it’s okay.”

What do you think? If Satriani was paid, how much did he deserve—a symbolic dollar or a huge portion of the cash they made off of this massive hit? Listen to segments of “Viva La Vida” paired with the Satriani song in question below and tell us what you think.

Comments (141 total) Add your comment
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  • paulbgs

    songs are barely similar. he does not deserve to get paid.

    • soulsalaam

      Haterz or non-haterz this is a great mash-up idea…Satriani tune over Coldplay instrumental, the NEXT big hit, who’s gonna sue me;) getting busy now! LOL

  • Ned

    I majored in Music Composition, and I would be shocked if there was any theft involved. If you gave any 5 songwriters those same backing chords and that same opening note, you’d get a very similar melody from at least one of them. Plus the main element that made “Viva La Vida” popular is the rhythm, which is nowhere to be found in Satriani’s song. Of course, they pretty much co-opped THAT from Yanni’s “Santorini”, but that’s neither hear nor there. Basically, every musical phrase that’s pleasing to Western ears has already been written. Sometimes, they just haven’t been utilized optimally yet.

    • J242

      I must respectfully disagree. Listen to Trent Reznor’s (NIN’s) Year Zero, Ghosts I-IV and The Slip. There are plenty of unique sound combinations that can still be used to create unique music. Just not on the pop air-waves that is because they don’t understand or respect the “music” they attempt to produce.

      Just my $0.02 worth as a musician and producer…

      • Ned

        I was talking about simple melodic construction. OF COURSE, there’s new sound combinations out there. But it’s a lot easier to prove the theft of something intricately Reznor-esque. Satriani/Coldplay is simple voice leading technique, which has been around for centuries. They both resolve the opening note in just about the easiest possible way. That’s not theft, it’s just trite.

    • guytar

      I nevered majored in Musical Composition, but I have worked as a musician. I can understand Satriani’s claim. Coldplay is a good band, but this Youtube comparison is very close.

      • Trish

        I agree with you. I am shocked how close the two songs are. I had never followed Satriani’s music, but comparison makes it very clear it is the same intro-just different use of the instruments.

    • sodium

      You wasted your time and money with that “music major” dude.

      All wishy-washy excuses like “it’s all been done before” aside, Satch has an actionable case here. Which is why they settled.

      This is why I am skeptical of “music majors”.

      They can read the notes but they often don’t get the meaning behind the notes.

      • Ned

        I don’t get the meaning behind four measures of basic guitar noodling?

    • Jane

      What does that mean, “neither here nor there”? Whenever someone tries to use that on me, they are trying to dismiss something I’ve said. That’s one of those pretentious things jerks say when they want to sound like they know better than you or are trying to take the high road.

  • crispy

    It’s great to hear that Joe Satriani will now be able to pay his mortgage during this troubled economy.

    • Leah C

      Joe Sats is doing fine. In case you’ve been under some rock, he’s now with Sammy Hagar’s band Chickenfoot, and they’re doing well- touring all over the country.

      • crispy

        Oh, I heard. And I laughed until I peed.

      • Josh

        Of course you are assuming being in a band called “chickenfoot” w/ the likes of Sammy Hagar writing god awful music not fit to be played outside of 1984 “doing fine”, then you are right…I guess.

      • larry yo

        …at State Fairs. Is Huey Lewis there, too? LOL

      • Minutiae

        Wow, you guys must not really follow music that closely, because the Chickenfoot record went gold and the band is playing fairly large venues. Just because it’s good blues-based rock doesn’t mean it’s stuck in the 80’s, people.

      • TBone

        Well, lets simplify your laughter.

        You’re likely close to broke, and Satriani is rich.

        The end.

      • TBone

        Now laugh it up. . .

      • Big B

        Well, Brittany Spears and Madonna are richer than any virtuoso shredder ever dreamed. What does THAT do to your “simplicity”?

    • Fahim

      You really think you are some smart kid don’t you, making a comment like that? Idiot, get your facts straight, Satch has been doing very well without copying stealing or being a sell out from long time ago…he’s been grammy nominated more times than you’ve been with a girl…putting it civilly…idiot.

  • Master JSin

    The evolution of music and words continue. Soon every song written will be a copy of another one. Look at all the movies out there that are remakes. Authors, Directors, Musicians all recycle their influences. Music should be free, I’ll pay to see a great concert!

    PS: I am a musician and make music on a regular basis. At the edge of infinity on my space.

    • LK

      technically there is no originality left..whats occurring today is just a combination of things created/invented decades ago..the combinations might be new but in the end its all the same

  • Vimu

    Good to hear Satriani being recompensed for his work. It was, in all honesty, most likely a subconscious thing because Coldplay’s guitarist is a Satriani fan – he;s talked about Satriani in past interviews (going back about 5 years). However, the Coldplay song bears much more than a passing resemblance to the Creaky Boards song which is ironically titled “The Songs I Didn’t Write”. Coldplay were at one of their shows in New York prior to working on the material for this album, and had they a higher public presence I’m certain the Creaky Boards would be able to successfully challenge over this.

    • Jon

      I saw the YouTube vid with the Creaky Boards comparison.
      Satriani had a weak argument against Coldplay. Creaky Boards’ claim was even weaker, almost non-existent. Even if they had a public presence (which would never happen because they really suck) they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if they decided to challenge.
      But way to sound like you have some indie credibility by mentioning the Creaky Boards. You probably never even heard of them until you YouTube’d “Coldplay” and “stole song”.

      • TBone

        If Satriani’s arguement was so “weak”, why did Coldplay settle, wiseguy? lol

      • Jon

        First, it may have been cheaper than paying out the rising legal costs. Duh.
        Second, because there is a chance that a jury, filled with idiots like you, might think Coldplay is guilty and rule in favor of Satriani.
        Think a moment before you post trying to call someone out. Seriously, take a moment and follow a natural progression of actions.

      • Trish

        Well if it had gone to trial, I would have voted for Satriani. Glad I got to hear the comparison on line, otherwise I would have thought it was a joke of a lawsuit.

      • basselope

        @Jon, first off, Coldplay is rich enough that the legal expenses don’t compare to the cost of a credibility hit like this. The fact that they DID settle, certainly gives merit to Satriani’s claim…Also, you don’t even know how much the settlement was, so you might want to stop talking out of your arse. You may also want to get your ears checked, because the similarities are obvious to a deaf person. Take off your fanboy goggles.

    • ShutUpRob

      I’m more concerned about the resemblance between Bobby Brown’s “My Perogative” and the Seinfeld theme song. (Seinfeld’s brass-driven chorus is essentially the exact same melodic line and rhythm as Perogative, which was released 2 years earlier.)
      — Rob

  • Toby

    It does sound very similar. The Satriani version sounds like a bad remix of the Coldplay Song. I would say it was problay not intentional. Many people have the same ideas but not everyone is able to do something with it.

    • GoD of Thunder

      Toby…..You have got to be a young moron to make that statement, you obviously think Coldplay is good(they aren’t bad) but they cannot hold a candle to Joe Satriani and his career. They will be forgotten soon and Joe will just keep going with the fan base he earned over the last 20 years.

  • carrington

    For all we know, Satriani’s lawyers told him to back out because he had no chance of winning and didn’t have enough cash to keep going. There’s been no mention of any financial compensation anywhere to anyone. Coldplay may have built a solid defense case and Satriani figured he had nothing to gain by continuing.

    • sodium

      You’re joking, right?

    • jackfrost

      What part of “settlement” do you not understand?
      If you have a solid defense, why settle?
      If you have a solid case but do not wish to go through a trial, you take a settlement offer.
      This is a win for Satriani. There’s no other way to read this.

      • Wes

        Or… they just have a gigantic amount of money and decided it was worth it to just toss him a bone and put it behind them.

        One guitar lick means nothing. I don’t even like either one of them, but aside from that one phrase, there’s actually very little similarity at all. Satriani’s song is built on that one phrase, Coldplay’s uses it incidentally comparatively.

    • Wen

      Chad e9 um bom baterista, grioveoro te1 sempre le1 pra dar o ritmo e fazer o seu trabalho. Ele je1 gravou com muita gente ve9i, eu queria saber a caixa que ele te1 usando pra esse projeto :S

  • Bob

    There are only 12 notes available in Western music so there is bound to be some overlap. . .scratch that. . .a LOT of overlap. Besides, if it’s true that Coldplay ‘stole’ the melody, you have to give Chris Martin credit for realizing that a melody composed by a virtuoso, quasi-metal instrumentalist would connect with Coldplay’s teeny-bopper/adult contemporary fans!! Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to bite U2?!?!?

  • Ron

    The vast majority of songs sound similar other songs in some way. This lawsuit was frivolous. Coldplay shouldn’t have to pay this joker a dime.

    • guytar

      We used to have a saying about people with cloth ears. Anyone else remember that?

    • TBone

      Well, since Coldplay decided (not forced) to settle, I’d say your “Frivolous” claim is “Frivolous” in itself.

      Coldplay saw that he DID deserve a dime. . .or more. lol

      • TBone Burnette

        Hearing the comparison reminded me that I heard “If I Could Fly” on an elevator once and wondered what type of hack would butcher Viva La Vida. I left the elevator with a disdain for the people who produce elevator music. Now I know that the creator of that horrible elevator song wasn’t John Tesh, but was Joe Satriani. It’s a shame, really, since Joe is an incredibly talented guitarist. He just can’t manage to assemble a listenable song. Enter Coldplay. They commandeered a crap song and made it popular/tolerable. Joe deserves a finder’s fee for that (Lawyer’s fees plus an $800 Ibanez Satriani signature guitar).

  • kbh

    wow.. I think it is silly to even call the two similar. Thats like saying that the guy who came up with the jazz tempo owns all of jazz music. It may be that there are some similarities in the foundation of the songs but they are not a rippoff in any way. It is lame of Satriani to sue. Totally lame.

    • Mike

      i’m sorry. “the jazz tempo”? do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

  • Cays

    Coldplay sucks and how obvious can you get of their deliberate plagerism than the above 1:02 link. Hope Cat Stevens sicks it to them even more….

    • TBone Burnette

      If “Viva La Vida” = “If I Could Fly”
      “Viva La Vida” = “Foreigner Suite”
      “If I Could Fly” = “Foreigner Suite”.

      Why isn’t Yusuf “Cat” Islam suing Joe Satriani? Oh, I know… because Satriani didn’t make any significant money with his crap song.

      Ooh Ooh! That gives me an idea. I could make a bunch of basic, uninspired music, release it on the internet where nobody will download it (because it will suck), then wait 20 years for some future pop act to inevitably create something similar (but listenable and popular), then sue them. Thanks for the inspiration Cays, Cat, and Joe!

      • Big B

        This is EXACTLY right. I’ve written some decent songs. No one has ever heard them because I am a stay at home dad, not a touring rock star. But if I record and copyright them, and put them on the net where they “could” be heard, eventually someone will have a hit with “my song” and I can cash in!

  • Jordan

    Satriani should get atleast something, because they sound VERY similar. If you people actually listened to it, which you probably didn’t. Plus, Satriani is a way better guitarist. But, Coldplay is pretty decent…. U2 is better. =/

    • eric m

      u2 blows… weakest rhythm section in the history of pop music

  • joe

    satriani should get something, but not much. people stop being so ignorant by saying he doesnt have enough money. satriani plays tons of concerts-still-and has plenty of money. and if anything, the coldplay version sounds like a bad remix. if you think the coldpla song has good music, then youre wrong. it just has a catchy rythm. satriani shouldnt really have sued though

  • Fred

    Coldplay clearly borrowed from Satriani. Whatever he got as a settlement is puny compared to the importance of the song to Coldplay as the foundation for their tour. Satriani is currently a member of the band Chickenfoot.

  • barton fink

    when time-aligned, the songs were virtually identical over certain passages. whether or not it was intentional I can’t say, but listen to them played together. same chord sequence, same key, similar tempo

    • guytar

      That’s what I heard too. The overlay of Coldplay audio over Satriani is out there on the net for all to hear. It’s a direct steal, and there ain’t no doubt about it.

      • Jane

        Can you give us the link?

    • Big B

      They only thing you can actually copyright are melody and lyrics. Chords, keys, tempos, those are not copyrightable. They are considered the vocabulary of music. Just light you can copyright a poem, but you cannot copyright words. And since Satriani’s work has no words, he never was entitled to “all proceeds” even if the had deliberately copied him, which I don’t believe they did. I’d call myself a casual Satch fan, and I’d never heard the song. It’s not hard to imagine they’d never heard it either. It’s such a simple melody, I bet thousands of us have sung it in the shower at some point.

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