Support Lesbiens found guilty of song plagiarism

26-11-2008

In the first verdict of its kind in this country, a court has ruled that Support Lesbiens’ 2002 hit ‘In Da Yard’ plagiarised a song written by singer Jan Kalousek nearly a decade earlier. Support Lesbiens – one of the biggest bands in this country – say that they are dismayed by the verdict, but that the song in question will continue to be played.

‘In Da Yard’ – the first single from Support Lesbiens' 2002 album ‘Tune Da Radio’ – was an immediate hit upon release. To this day, it is still played regularly on the country’s pop music stations. But the tune struck a rather off-note with songwriter Jan Kalousek, who was pretty sure he had written something similar nearly a decade earlier. To him, Support Lesbiens’ single sounded a lot like his own ‘Chodím ulicí’, which he recorded and released back in 1994.

Mr Kalousek took the matter to court and on Wednesday the judge ruled in his favour. Jaromír Helešic, Support Lesbiens’ former guitarist who wrote ‘In Da Yard’, was found guilty of plagiarizing Mr Kalousek’s song and ordered to pay 200,000 crowns (10,300 USD) in damages. For his part, Mr Helešic maintains his innocence, calling pop music in its essence a recycling of old melodies. He says that what’s important is the arrangement and not the tune – speaking after the trial he remained defiant:

“The Society for the Protection of Rights of Music Authors and Publishers came up with a settlement, which I didn’t agree with. That settlement would have made things much easier for me, if I had just agreed to credit Mr Kalousek with partial authorship of the song. If I had accepted this proposal then I wouldn’t have gone through everything I’ve gone through. In my weaker moments, the offer seemed quite appealing, but I think at the end of it all, my conviction has been worth standing up for in this way.”

The verdict is the first of its kind in the Czech Republic. Other bands have been taken to court for allegedly plagiarising different artists' tunes, but up until now, no one has been found guilty. Mr Kalousek is calling the verdict an important victory, while Mr Helešic is considering whether to appeal. One way or another, this isn’t the last we’ve heard of ‘In Da Yard’ – the judge in the case threw out Mr Kalousek’s request to have the song pulled from the radio. According to Justice Martin Valehrach, that would be unfair upon the other members of Support Lesbiens, who wrote the song’s original lyrics.

26-11-2008