I heard something that really bugged me on the radio this morning. An R&B/rap singer by the name of Frank Ocean decided recently that Don Henley has made enough money from the sales of Hotel California and that made it okay for Mr. Ocean to steal the entire track from the song, resplendent with his own lyrics.
First off, it should be quite clear that how much money a given person makes off a given work is irrelevant to whether they still own all the rights to it or not. It should also be fairly obvious that using a track from someone else's song (without their permission) is theft. It's not a gray area; it's stealing.
The second thing that irritates me about this whole affair is the practice these days of "borrowing" an already created track of music so you can "add your own flair" or "re-write lyrics to it". It's idiotic, lazy, and shows how little talent or creativity you have in that you can't create your own unique work. This is probably why I choose not to listen to most R&B anyway, as it sounds to me like the same backbeat over and over with different words applied. I'd prefer to hear truly talented musicians and singers displaying what they can do with the bevy of notes available rather than listen to some wanna-be piggyback on another artist's work.
The good news is it appears Ocean has been warned that further performances could result in legal action. I hope they slap him so hard he actually gets a clue, though I doubt that's possible.
Can you imagine if this type of behavior were tolerated in literature? How about a re-creation of Lord Of The Rings where the setting is California, the two main characters are Beavis and Butthead, and the journey involves returning a set of golden rims to their rightful owner in New York City? Even if someone got permission, Tolkien would be turning over in his grave.
Am I being overly critical here?
Oh, and if anyone does take my literature example and runs with it, I hope it spontaneously combusts in your hands.