i am a composer of hip hop songs. As opposed to rap songs, hip hop songs are very melodic by nature. now sometimes i get inspired by someone else's tune, or write my own tune and then find out someone wrote a similar tune too. When you look at melody there is:

  • notes
  • key
  • sounds (or instrument)
  • volume
  • length of each note (which can be different between the notes)
  • sequence of the notes (which note comes after which note)
  1. My question is across these, how many things have to be different to show it is similar?

  2. Also specific question about number of notes- lets say i have same sequence, almost same volume and length. how many notes before it becomes theft? 3? 5? 7?

I am choosing US because most of the hip hop songs are in the US. But i am in the UK. But I'm trying to make songs that work for the US too.

  • 2
    I'm afraid the answer to this tends to be another question: "how good is your lawyer?"
    – phoog
    Apr 19, 2021 at 21:49
  • 2
    Downvoter: this is a good question, even if the answer is "there's no general answer."
    – phoog
    Apr 19, 2021 at 22:18
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    Does this answer your question? What considerations determine copyright infringement?
    – user4657
    Apr 19, 2021 at 23:10
  • thanks Nij! it definitely helps! and elaborates more on bdb84's answer Apr 25, 2021 at 11:11
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    The linked question is closely related, but has a different emphasis, and is not a true duplicate in my view. This should not be closed as a duplicate Apr 25, 2021 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


There is no real answer to this question. The analysis will always be qualitative, not quantitative. If your work sounds "too similar" to a protected work, it's at risk of being deemed an infringement.

There's no way to say exactly where the line will be drawn, as there are so many elements at play, any one of which could put you over the line.

  • thank you. I think in this case should we leanr from examples. Apr 20, 2021 at 8:16

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