The dispute that first piqued my interest in intellectual property law was between The Rolling Stones and The Verve over the song Bittersweet Symphony in the late 1990s. Richard Ashcroft from The Verve, sampled a few seconds from a song by The Rolling Stones to make up the distinctive string melody that plays throughout the track and The Rolling Stones were having none of it.
It was a particularly obscure infringement in that (a) it was not a particularly well-known song by The Rolling Stones (it’s called The Last Time), (b) it was not even a sample from the original song, it was from an orchestral version of the song performed by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra, and (c) the outcome was notoriously one-sided as Richard Ashcroft ended up with 0% of all the publishing royalties from the song (and Jagger + Richards got 100% of the royalties).
I remember looking at the songwriting credits of my beloved BIG HITS 98 reading Jagger/Richards and thinking that this really didn’t seem fair at all. It was up there with the top songs of the year (along with Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping), and was by far the most famous song that The Verve ever released. To get 0% of the royalties seemed really harsh.
I was exceptionally happy to find out on Pitchfork that over 20 years later The Rolling Stones decided to give the songwriting credit and royalties of the song back to Richard Ashcroft.
The statement from Richard Ashcroft follows:
It gives me great pleasure to announce as of last month Mick Jagger and Keith Richards agreed to give me their share of the song Bitter Sweet Symphony. This remarkable and life affirming turn of events was made possible by a kind and magnanimous gesture from Mick and Keith, who have also agreed that they are happy for the writing credit to exclude their names and all their royalties derived from the song they will now pass to me.
I would like to thank the main players in this, my management Steve Kutner and John Kennedy, the Stones manager Joyce Smyth and Jody Klein (for actually taking the call) lastly a huge unreserved heartfelt thanks and respect to Mick and Keith.
Music is power.
Sometimes, things just turn out the way they should.
Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash