Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Coldplay writes excellent words to its lawsuit response

Coldplay writes excellent songs. They also write excellent responses to lawsuits.

Last Thursday, cult rock guitar hero Joe Satriani filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, accusing the British quartet of lifting "substantial portions" of his song "If I Could Fly" for their megahit "Viva La Vida."

Usually when these lawsuits are filed, it's some unknown songwriter appearing out of nowhere, and the case almost always gets tossed. However, Satriani is certainly above the radar publicly, so it was taken seriously.

At first, Coldplay and their label Capitol Records went immediately into "declined to speak" mode. Within 24 hours, a video appeared on YouTube comparing the two songs, garnering more than 1.5 million views. So it was not looking good for Chris Martin and company, letting Satriani and the public air it out first.

It appears Coldplay did not sit around twiddling their thumbs. Today, they came out with one of the most carefully crafted lawsuit responses I've seen in a long time.

"With the greatest possible respect to Joe Satriani, we have now unfortunately found it necessary to respond publicly to his allegations. If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental, and just as surprising to us as to him. Joe Satriani is a great musician, but he did not write the song 'Viva La Vida.' We respectfully ask him to accept our assurances of this and wish him well with all future endeavours."

It is so easy for artists, individual and corporations to become full of legalese in these siutations. They usually turn to those famous cliche phrases -- "This lawsuit has no merit" or "This lawsuit is frivolous."

So you have to hand it to Coldplay for taking a refreshing route and actually show admiration for the plaintiff, using carefully chosen words implying astonishment, and then being directlly sincere, and saying there is really much ado about a mere coincidence.

Responses like this are so rare and clever, that as a public relations professional, you have to stop and take note. In four deft sentences, not only does Coldplay take a believeable high road, but it puts the ball in Satriani's court -- if he aggressively pursues the suit, he appears to be an unreasonable, stubborn diva in the eyes of the public.

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