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​Complaining Work

​Defending Work

Stavros Logarides

"City of Violets"

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Evangelos Papathanasiou [aka "Vangelis"]

"Chariots of Fire"

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Comments (2)  

By Paul Sipio (University of Pennsylvania Law School)

By Robert Cason and Daniel Mullenseifen (University of London)

 

Paul Sipio

 

I. Facts

 

Plaintiffs, EMI Music Publishing Limited, asserted infringement of copyright in what they claimed to be an original musical work called “I Menexedenia Politeia” (“The City of Violets”), composed by Stavros Logarides.  “The City of Violets” was used as the musical accompaniment to the titles of City of Violets, a television series broadcast in Greece in 1975, at the beginning and end of each episode.  There were four Defendants; the first, Evangelos Papathanasiou (professionally known as Vangelis), composed the theme for the film, Chariots of Fire.  Both the film and the music were very successful; Vangelis even got an Oscar award

 

It was the opening theme of the Chariots of Fire music that was alleged to infringe the City of Violets title theme.  In his defense, Vangelis denied copying and asserted that at the time he composed the Chariots of Fire music, he was not aware of the City of Violets theme.  Plaintiffs asserted that Vangelis quite deliberately copied the City of Violets theme and used it for Chariots of Fire, or, at the very least, subconsciously copied the City of Violets theme.

 

II. Analysis

 

Plaintiffs’ experts concentrated their attention upon the identical four notes F-G-A-G, described as “the turn,” which linked Bars 1 and 2 in City of Violets and Bars 11 and 12 in Chariots of Fire, respectively.  Recognizing that the resolution of the issue depended upon one’s view of the facts, the court rejected the suggestion that this was a case where there was conscious copying.  In so doing, the court accepted without reservation the evidence of Vangelis that he never met a particular witness who allegedly played the City of Violets theme to him several times in 1975.  While Vangelis accepted that Logarides played him a tape in 1975, and recalled that it had on it a piece by the name of “Arabian Knife” (a curious name that stuck in Vangelis’s memory), Vangelis also told the court that he had no collection of hearing “The City of Violets.”  The court reasoned that “The City of Violets” was not a piece likely to be of any great significance to Vangelis, or no significance greater than that of a larger number of other compositions of his own and other composers, which, in the years between 1975 and 1976 and the date of composing the Chariots of Fire music, he must have heard.

 

Turning to the issue of subconscious copying, the court found that the turn was a musical commonplace.  Innumerable examples were produced by one of Defendants’ experts to support this argument, and Vangelis himself used the turn long before the composition of “The City of Violets” by Logarides, particularly in a song called “Wake Up.”  The court also noted that the B sections presented no similarity because while there may have been “visual likeness,” there was no audible similarity.  Having considered the scores, having heard the two themes played, and having considered the evidence of the experts, the court was satisfied that if there was a resemblance, it was only in the turn, and that was a result of coincidence and not the result of subconscious copying.  Moreover, in considering the turn in the context of the two themes, taken in their entirety, the court again concluded that it was really quite impossible to conclude that there was subconscious copying.  Vangelis’s testimony as to how he sat down and composed the Chariots of Fire music was entirely accepted, and a distinction was drawn between the nostalgic character of City of Violets and the striving character of Chariots of Fire.  Accordingly, the action failed and was dismissed.

 

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 Robert Cason and Daniel Mullenseifen

The plaintiff had composed and owned the copyright in a piece of work called “I Menexedenia Politeia” (City of Violets), used as the theme music for a 1975 Greek Soup opera. The plaintiff claimed part of this work had been infringed, either consciously or unconsciously, by the defendant Vangelis in the theme music for Chariots of Fire. In turn the defendant denied any form of copying. During the case Vangelis demonstrated his method of composition by setting up a synthesizer in the court.

Both the plaintiff and defendant had been members of a band which formed the argument concerning a casual connection between the two works.
 
The court examined two sections of the works; Part A included a sequence of four notes (the turn see below) which received the most attention; Part B was the development section or bridge which although was taken into account was not deemed to hold much significance.
 
With the help of the expert witnesses, and perhaps Vangelis demonstration, the judge held there had been no conscious copying by the defendant, and if there had been any unconscious copying it only amounted to the turn in both pieces of work. This musical commonplace had to be taken into account when considering the entirety of both the works; City of Violets had a nostalgic feeling while Chariots of fire was a striving dramatic piece.
 
Melodic Similarity
 
The Turn:
“It is immediately apparent from a comparison of the scores that if one takes the top line that provides the melody, there are considerable differences. Mr Cooper and Mr Dodgson, the experts who gave evidence on behalf of the plaintiff, in their first reports concentrated their attention upon the four notes F G A G, linking Bars 1 and 2 in CITY OF VIOLETS. These were described by Mr Dodgson in his report as 'the turn'. Both Mr Dodgson and Mr Cooper quite rightly point out that an identical turn can be identified at Bars 11 and 12 of CHARIOTS OF FIRE, and everyone is agreed that in both works there are repetitions of 'the turn'. There is an immediate repeat in Bars 3 and 4 of CITY OF VIOLETS, with the CHARIOTS OF FIRE repeat bridging Bars 12 and 13, followed by three subsequent repeats.
 
This part of these works, conveniently referred to by Mr Dodgson as Part A, is followed by a B
section, a development section, which initially neither Mr Dodgson nor Mr Cooper seemed to think of any significance.
For my own part, on first hearing both works, what struck me was that if one considers what Mr

 Dodgson referred to as 'the motif' of CITY OF VIOLETS, the whole of Bars 1 and 2, you have this very distinctive drop of a sixth from E to G preceding 'the turn', followed by a rise to middle C after the turn.

 In CHARIOTS OF FIRE you start with a repetition, against a throbbing bass, of the notes low C to G which generally speaking give the effect of a horn call, and this leads into a passage in which you rise from low C to 'the turn', F G A G, the second and third notes of the turn of course echoing the horn theme. This is followed by a drop.

Opinion by Judge Whitford 

Opinion Text (PDF) 

 

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