I was studying My Favorite Things by John Coltrane to play on piano, while listening to it and its other versions I have learned that this Jazz standard was actually from a motion picture called Sound of Music.

John Coltrane version:

Sound of Music version:

And then on comments I have seen that

Ariana Grande's 7 rings is also the same.

My question is, these songs are obviously same with some differences and how copyrights work on this issue? Or are there any musical theory background makes them different from each other?

I also know that most of the jazz standards are like this but still could not understand why all these versions are allowed by the original composer.

  • 4
    I’m voting to close this question because business and legal questions are explicitly off-topic as outlined in the help center. Copyright questions are usually on topic at law.stackexchange.com. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 14:07

3 Answers 3


It's actually from the broadway stage show, The Sound of Music (1959). As the Movie didn't come out til 1965 it would be a bit of a time warp for Coltrane to have covered it in 61 ;)

Song copyright is a tortuous, torturous & sometimes tort-urous game of legalese.

Basically, it boils down to "Once a song is written & published it can then be covered by anyone who wants to; subject only to correct accreditation & payment of appropriate royalties."
If a song is "substantially modified" from the original then special permission can be needed, but not always & it was less insisted on in the past.

Obviously, someone like Coltrane is going to fairly "substantially modify" a piece, but who would deny him permission, when sales are guaranteed? Once a piece has been significantly covered by many, then that aspect of modification tends to get ignored. By the time you're covering something 60 years after the fact, no-one cares any more. Just release the cover, pay the royalties.
As Ariana Grande's cover is a partial re-write, negotiations will have taken place as to who owns what percentage of any part of the original vs new. If you look at the credits, you will never find percentages, but you will see it has shared credit.

Songwriters: Ariana Grande / Njomza Vitia / Richard Rodgers / Taylor Monet Parks / Charles Michael Anderson / Kimberley Anne Krysiuk / Michael David Foster / Oscar II Hammerstein / Thomas Lee Brown / Victoria Monet McCants
The original composer/author team, if you weren't aware, was Richard Rodgers & Oscar II Hammerstein.

  • Rodgers was the composer, Hammerstein the lyricist.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 10:58
  • 1
    “… sometimes tort-urous …” Ooo, that’s cruel and unusual pun-ishment. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 12:43
  • @AndyBonner - sometimes, I just can't resist the urge ;))
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 12:45
  • OOT, but, can you explain the tort-urous pun?
    – justhalf
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 3:06
  • @justhalf - Look up the meaning of the word 'tort'.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 12:48

In the United States ...

To make a recording of a copyrighted song, one first contacts the rights holder and pays for the mechanical and distribution rights to the song. The cost varies according to the format or formats the song is to be distributed in and the number of copies to be made. A typical agreement can cover all existing formats as well as those that may be invented in the future. It's also a standard part of such agreements that the original composer(s)/lyricists(s)/rights-holders must be credited, along with the date of copyright and which rights are covered.

This is required regardless whether the recording is to be commercial or not. For a commercial recording, in addition to any purchase of mechanical and distribution rights, there would be a negotiation of royalties.

For example, I paid Horace Silver's agency for the right to make a demo recording that included "Song for My Father". The recording was not intended for sale, so I didn't have to pay any royalties, but I did have to pay a fee for the mechanical rights based on the number of copies I intended to make.

  • That's interesting. My answer is based on UK law & practices. If you want to cover a song, you just cover it, correctly accredit it & you're off. It then ticks up any royalties via PRS/MCPS, just the same as the original. Looking at the details [behind a members only PRS wall], it seems the mechanical license is 'just done' as part of the accreditation process & require no actual 'Can I do this?' 'Yes' as a separate process. [I admit to being an amateur at this, I've always had record companies to do the paperwork ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 16:36

„The sky is full of sounds … !“ (s. lyrics of Sound of Music).

There are so many similar songs with the same harmonic, melodic and rhythmic patterns, maybe some have been transformed in different countries by migration etc. or transcultural transport. Often songs that ponder on copyright have a same root, and the original may be have gone lost.

The question of copyright in such cases is obsolete. (If you don‘t sell the „Moldau“ by Smetana as your own composition view they are ridiculous.)

(I know there are always fights among pop musicians about stolen ideas. In my enter image description here

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