Sam Grobart of the New York Times called to say that he had no prior knowledge of Anshu Sharma’s very similar blog post before he wrote his. He seems like an upstanding guy and I am inclined to believe him. As I write below, you can’t expect to have infinite rights to a story idea. Much like chord progressions in music can be reworked to produce new songs, the nucleus of a story can be elaborated into many forms. The similarities between the two pieces should, therefore, be attributed to coinkidink. Denis
Anshu Sharma is a thoroughly nice person and a member of the Enterprise Irregulars, a group of independent and independently minded front office analysts, press and smart people. Sharma recently wrote this essay and not long after, this essay appeared in the Times.
This is a tough call in my book because you can’t copyright something like a format. It reminds me of something similar in music. My kids, who are budding pro’s, once explained to me that while you might be able to copyright a song, what you are doing is actually copyrighting the melody only. The chord changes are not copyrightable.
That might seem strange but as it was explained to me, the universe of melodies is infinite but the universe of chord changes is not. Chords, for laymen like me, are the notes that fill out a song’s sound. Chord changes are fairly well structured and you can hear musicians refer to them by numbers like 1,3,5 indicating the sequence of chords for a song. You can easily change keys for a song and all you need to know is the progression and you’ll be fine.
Perhaps the most popular chord changes in history are from the George Gershwin song, I Got Rhythm. The chords for this song are so well known, especially in Jazz, that when people get together to jam, they inevitably choose Gershwin’s framework on which to play. Someone, the bass player or the piano player usually, will call “rhythm changes” and everyone but savvy members of the audience will know they’re basically playing I Got Rhythm.
Perhaps the best example of building another song on top of rhythm changes, is the 1945 Bebop classic from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Anthropology. You might not know this tune by name but if you listen to it you’ll have an ah-ha moment.
As for the essays? Who knows? There are a lot of songs yet to be written.