By Simon Vozick-Levinson
December 09, 2008 at 12:00 PM EST

Some of you out there seem to have spent the weekend battling in the comments trenches about whether guitarist Joe Satriani (pictured) was right to sue Coldplay. For everyone else, a quick recap: Satriani thinks that Coldplay stole a riff for their hit “Viva La Vida” from an instrumental track he released in 2004, so he’s seeking a big payday in court. (Click over to last week’s post to hear the two songs side by side.) Either way, you might be interested in the response that the band just posted on their website:

“With the greatest possible respect to Joe Satriani, we have now unfortunately found it necessary to respond publicly to his allegations. If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental, and just as surprising to us as to him.  Joe Satriani is a great musician, but he did not write the song “Viva La Vida.” We respectfully ask him to accept our assurances of this and wish him well with all future endeavours. Coldplay.”

The lads’ wording is very polite as always, but it doesn’t sound like they’re yielding much ground here. This statement feels like the equivalent of saying, “Look, Joe, you’re cool and all, but could you please f— off now?”

And the more I think about this suit, the more I’m inclined to agree with them. There’s no denying the similarities between the two compositions. But so what? There are a finite number of pleasing riffs in the musical universe. And even though that signature riff overlaps, you don’t have to love Coldplay (or disrespect Joe Satriani, who is a very talented guy) to tell the difference between the final “Viva La Vida” and Satriani’s “If I Could Fly.” Similar is not the same. So unless we’re talking about Coldplay wholesale jacking an entire song, music and lyrics, and republishing it under their own name without any credit — something which they obviously did not do here — I personally don’t see why they owe Satriani anything more than a friendly acknowledgment that he got to that riff first. (And yes, this is the same problem I have with current sampling law, the “My Sweet Lord” verdict, etc.) Of course, it’s far from certain that a judge would see things the same way. What do you think?

More on Coldplay and suspiciously similar music:
Coldplay is one of EW’s 2008 Entertainers of the Year
They gave EW a sneak preview of Viva La Vida back in May got an exclusive glimpse of one of bassist Guy Berryman’s sketches
2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head is one of EW’s New Music Classics
EW took a look at a few other soundalike songs in 2006

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