This Week’s Focus: To me, the most evocative song ever recorded is My Sweet Lord by George Harrison. It was riding high in the charts in March 1971 when I made my first visit to watch Preston North End and must have been playing over the tannoy when I entered the ground (they didn’t have sound systems in those days), because whenever I hear the song now I am immediately transported back in time to that day and can visualise the green pitch, hear and feel the crowd, smell the players’ liniment, and even sense the taste of a Wagon Wheel biscuit and a Kia Ora orange drink!
What I didn’t realise at the time was that Harrison was starting to face copyright accusations against the song, and 10 years later would have to pay damages for the ‘unconscious’ plagiarism of He’s So Fine by The Chiffons. Harrison wrote another track, This Song, in reaction to the lawsuit.
TS Eliot once wrote, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” To my mind Harrison was a good poet. He may have taken the riff of He’s So Fine, but in doing so elevated it into something that was clearly superior.
Eliot’s quote popped into my mind earlier this week when one of my retail clients suggested to me that his business should become better at copying others’ ideas. I think that benchmarking and some level of copying is a natural part of doing business, and is essential if you’re going to remain competitive in rapidly changing markets. Constant imitation, however, will add no value for customers and is, in the long run, unsustainable. If you’re going to copy, apply the TS Eliot test; don’t just imitate but ask yourself how you can make the idea both different and better.
Off The Record: This Song by George Harrison
This song has nothing tricky about it
This song ain’t black or white
And, as far as I know
Don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright
© Stuart Cross 2015. All rights reserved.