The Verve Intellectual Property Case A Bittersweet Example

The tentacles of IP are long and strong. Perhaps the biggest battleground in intellectual property is the music industry. Composers, producers, performers, and licensees could unexpectedly find themselves in legal battles over misuse or abuse of a song they own. Sometimes it is something of a song sample, but they are legal frictions that can handle millions and millions of dollars.


Time is not an issue to be underestimated when it comes to intellectual property. If you happen to use a song that was written forty years ago and one of its owners is still alive, you can claim misuse and lawsuits can suddenly flood your desktop. When working with someone else’s work, you need to be extremely careful, regardless of whether you already have permission to use it.

In 1997, the British band The Verve tried an orchestration on one of their songs, “Bittersweet Symphony”, from “The Last Time” by the Rolling Stones. Before the album’s release, the group properly negotiated the license agreement with the Rolling Stones to use the sample. When the album was released, the song was a complete success and peaked at # 23 on the Billboard charts. After the song’s sudden success, the Rolling Stones claimed that The Verve violated their licensing agreement because they used too much sample on their song. The Rolling Stones ended up getting 100% of the song’s loyalties. Members of Verve argued that the Stones became greedy when they noticed the sudden success of “Bittersweet Symphony.”

As a result, the Rolling Stones sold the rights to the “Bittersweet Symphony” and they became part of many commercials and advertisements. Allen Klein, manager of the Rolling Stones, licensed the song to Nike and Vauxhall cars. Both brands use the tune for multi-million dollar television campaigns. Worse yet, when the song was nominated for a Grammy, The Verve was not nominated as a nominee, but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were. This is just a small example of moral rights in the field of intellectual property. The song reached the top of the charts and no member of The Verve has had a penny from its success.

If these types of situations occur with fantastic groups, who are presumably not interested in more money, anything can happen to normal people who could be exposed to these inconveniences. Familiarize yourself with the respective regulations and laws so that financial problems do not arise in case you plan to use someone else’s inspiration!

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