Over the last several years, the legal climate around songwriting and copyright has shifted considerably. Thanks in large part to a 2015 verdict in favor of Marvin Gaye’s family in a lawsuit against “Blurred Lines” songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell, there’s a new fear that a musician could be successfully sued if their composition bears even a stylistic resemblance to a previous work. Led Zeppelin once cribbed entire passages from blues legends and hard rock peers with relative impunity; last year, Beyoncé gave a writing credit to Animal Collective on her song “6 Inch” to preemptively stave off potential for a lawsuit, just because both included a lyric about “material things.” Artists used to have relatively free rein to channel and interpret their influences; now, there’s an expectation to dole out cash or a percentage of royalties every time you’re inspired by a guitar lick or snare sound.
Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, like many musicians, is mad as hell about it. In a hilarious, drunken new interview with Rolling Stone about his new record Villains—Homme is swilling tequila at 11 a.m. and admits he’s still soused from the night before—he lashes out at an unexpected target: not the Gaye family, who first claimed that Thicke had ripped off the R&B legend’s “Got to Give It Up,” but Thicke himself, the guy who had to fork over millions of dollars to them.
The relevant passage, via Rolling Stone:
“It used to be, if anything had any hint of anybody else,” Homme says, “I wouldn’t play it. Now, I don’t worry about things, even though copyright law is really fucked up right now because of that dumb shit Robin Thicke. What a douchebag. Talk about thick. Now the copyright law is like, ‘If it tastes like chicken, I guess you stole it.’ Thanks, asshole.”
It’s a little difficult to follow Homme’s logic for blaming Thicke and not the Gayes. Maybe he thinks “Blurred Lines” is such a transparent ripoff that it poisoned the well for everyone else. Maybe it’s that Thicke and Pharrell actually initiated the lawsuit themselves after the Gaye family claimed out of court that they’d stolen the song. Maybe it’s just the tequila. Either way, he’s right about something: copyright law is really fucked up right now.