ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
If you were near a radio or an MP3 player or in a bar last summer, you might have found it impossible to avoid hearing this song.
(Soundbite of song "Viva La Vida")
COLDPLAY: (Singing): I used to rule the world. Seas would rise when I gave the word. Now in the morning I sleep alone, Sweep the streets I used to own.
SIEGEL: That string-saturated song is called "Viva La Vida" by the band Coldplay. The lyric made at least one magazine writer I read think of the Wall Street meltdown. "I used to rule the world. Seas would rise when I gave the word. Now I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own."
Now if you were listening to this and your name happened to be Joe Satriani, and you were concentrating less on the lyrics than on the music, well, it might have made you think about a song that you wrote and performed in 2004, an instrumental called "If I Could Fly."
(Soundbite of song "If I Could Fly")
SIEGEL: Joe Satriani is a rock guitarist, and he says he tried to contact Coldplay. And when he didn't hear back after several months, he filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Coldplay last week. A little extra tension here: Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" CD is a big hit and a Grammy Award nominee. Satriani's song never made it big. Well, Timothy English joins me now from our New York Studios to thrash all this out. Mr. English has written a book about songs with similar sounds. Tim English, are these songs, would you say, similar?
Mr. TIM ENGLISH (Author, "Sounds Like Teen Spirit"): They certainly sound very similar. They're kind of working in slightly different genres where almost all of Joe Satriani's music is instrumental, and of course, Coldplay working in a more pop, mainstream area. But when you hear the two songs together, they certainly do sound similar to my ears.
SIEGEL: Is it a degree of similarity that strikes you as very rare, or does this happen in rock music?
Mr. ENGLISH: It happens quite often for a lot of different reasons. One is there's just a very large quantity of recorded music. And rock music is a genre. It's now over 50 years old and, you know, the amount of originality you could have may be starting to get limited.
SIEGEL: Is there any indication, by the way, that when somebody does sue, is there any flurry of purchases when it's getting a lot of attention in the plagiarism suit?
Mr. ENGLISH: Yeah, I noticed on YouTube over the weekend that a video comparing the Satriani and Coldplay tracks had, I think, it was almost a million hits just this weekend, which is just incredible and shows a great interest in this topic, so...
SIEGEL: The plagiarism allegation has gone platinum, is what you're saying.
Mr. ENGLISH: Yeah. It would seem that way.
SIEGEL: Well, Timothy English's book is called "Sounds Like Teen Spirit." And he was talking to us about the controversy over the song "Viva La Vida" by the band Coldplay and its strong similarity to Joe Satriani's song "If I Could Fly." Tim English, thanks a lot for talking with us.
Mr. ENGLISH: My pleasure, Robert.