No, Pi cannot be copyrighted, despite what one composer claims. I had wondered why Michael John Blake’s beautiful YouTube video of “What Pi Sounds Like” had been taken down. I’d linked to it in my “Happy π Day from Crockett Johnson” post, and then it… disappeared. Blake explains why below:
Vi Hart has a truly excellent response to Lars Erikson, the composer who filed the claim against Michael Blake. Check it out:
As Hart notes, Erikson has also written a melody based on Pi — but it’s a different melody. I am not a legal expert, but I don’t think that Erikson’s claim has any standing: If this were a case of one melody sounding like another, then Mr. Erikson would have precedent. See for instance, the case of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” in which Mr. Harrison’s piece was ruled to have borrowed from the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine,” and Mr. Harrison was ordered to pay royalties to the song’s composer. (I’ve complied a page of such borrowings — most of which have not resulted in lawsuits — on a blog post inspired by allegations made against Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.)
Compare the two Pi songs. Here is the first movement of Lars Erikson’s Pi Symphony:
NewScientist has re-posted Michael Blake’s original video for “What Pi Sounds Like”:
You can also buy Michael Blake’s “What Pi Sounds Like” on iTunes. When I listen to these two works, side by side, I find it a bit of a stretch to claim that Blake has somehow plagiarized Erikson’s work. Yes, they both draw inspiration from 3.1415926535…, but sharing a common influence does not allow us to conclude that one work “stole” from the other. Honestly, the main conclusion I draw from all of this is that Lars Erikson has the heart of a lawyer, and that Michael John Blake has the heart of an artist.
What do you think?