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Classic Copyright Cases – The Beatles

November 6, 2020, By

Well, as an act of kindness I’m back with another Classic Copyright Case to hopefully provide some brief respite from the cold and early finishes. This month I’ll be talking about a dispute involving music goliaths The Beatles and rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry.

In 1969 the Scouse legends released their huge hit Come Together, the first track on their Abbey Road album of which I am sure we are all familiar – perhaps for the cover even more so than the album itself.

The track, one of John Lennon’s personal favourites, did not endear Chuck Berry as it turns out. Whilst its lyrics do not particularly make sense, its musical structure borrows heavily from Berry’s 1956 song You Can’t Catch Me – have a listen to both songs and see what you think. Not only that but Lennon even borrowed the lyric “here comes old flat-top”.

Berry’s lawyers came gunning and Lennon eventually settled the case out of court with Berry’s publishers Morris Levy. What’s more, Lennon agreed to record more songs owned by Morris Levy which ended up appearing on his 1975 album Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Lennon seems to have acknowledged being inspired by You Can’t Catch Me, begrudgingly admitting “they took me to court because I admitted the influence once years ago. Paul McCartney was also aware and pointed out the similarities to Lennon, suggesting that he do what he could to stray away from it. In the end it did not help and this is just another case that demonstrates the consequences of copyright infringement.

As always, our specialist solicitors and music lovers here at Briffa are always on hand to help with all things music, be it contracts, claims or even just a free chat about what’s what. Please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or on 020 7288 6003 for a free consultation.

Written by Alex Fewtrell, Solicitor

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