Allan Caswell and On The Inside

You are an aspiring songwriter, and you get a shot at
writing the theme song for a new TV series.

It might be successful. It might not. You don’t know, but
you do know that the guy who came up with the idea had one of the longest running
series in the history of British TV.

Sounds like it could be the recipe for a new TV program…

But this is exactly what happened to Allan Caswell.

In 1978, a total unknown and unpublished songwriter, he was
asked if he would like to submit a song for a new TV program called “Prisoner”.

Within a day of being asked to submit, and with production
of the program running behind schedule, he had written and demoed a song
called, “On The Inside”.

The song was accepted. A record was made. The show hit the
airwaves in Australia. It became a hit. The record went to #1.

And that was just the beginning. The show was sold to the
UK, and then the US. The record became a hit in the UK. And then it was covered
in the US and became a Billboard country hit.

It was an overnight success story.

And then in 2003 Allan heard a song that sounded incredibly
similar to “On The Inside”.

It was “Christmas In Dixie”, a song written and recorded by
arguably the most successful country band in history, Alabama.

Allan told the head of ATV Sony, the publishing company that
owned his song that he thought that there was an infringement.  He said he would need to get an expert
opinion from a musicologist.

Several years passed and Allan heard nothing, so he got in
touch with ATV Sony and asked what had happened.

They finally sent Allan a copy of the musicologist’s report.
It stated:“…it is my opinion that a case can be made that the two works bear a
level of similarity that goes beyond what I would consider to be a random
occurrence or sheer coincidence…. [and] further reinforces my viewpoint that
one work is reproducing a substantial part of the other work.”

But ATV Sony had done nothing about it.

Then Allan discovered that ATV Sony were also the publisher
of  “Christmas In Dixie”, the song
that the expert musicologist said “reproduced a substantial part” of Allan’s

So let’s try to put that in the context of how this impacts
on ordinary consumers of  music:

Music companies rely on the copyright laws to get paid. The
copyright laws have been around for a long, long time and they are well

In recent years the music industry has made a lot of noise
about how revenues are being lost to copyright infringers – they it call

In each country the record companies and the publishing
companies have peak organizations that act to try to stamp out piracy. In the
US it is the RIAA.

Big entertainment companies such as Sony have widely
diversified holding companies that operate in music publishing, records and

Sony is a successful company in music publishing and records
and in the US the record division is a part of the RIAA.

The RIAA is the organization that tracks down and sues
copyright infringers.

One Sony executive, Andy Lack, was quoted as follows:
“Piracy is an idiotic word for what’s happening. It is stealing. This is about
criminals and thieves in the night.”

So that is what Sony thinks about copyright infringement,
broadly. It is stealing and it is about criminal behaviour.

A judgement against someone who shares a song in a P2P
network may lead to them forfeiting all their assets. It is quite possible.

Yet a company that is part of the same organization appears
to be able to break the same copyright law it uses so effectively against the
P2P file sharer,  without any

How is this morally right?

If you want to listen to both songs and vote on what you
think should happen go to


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