A part of my long composition contains the same chord sequence and similar melody just like Moonlight Shadow refrain, but different rhythm. I was being inspired, but it seems that Moonlight Shadow somehow got into my head.

What should I do to prevent copyright infringement? Is the evidence of this post dangerous enough that that portion of the melody is stained no matter how hard I try to rearrange it? Can I twist around the notes to save the composition?

What are known methods to rearrange the melody without changing the chord sequences?

  • I'm voting to close this question because legal questions are off-topic here. Your second question is on-topic but I think too broad/opinion-based, as there are innumerable ways to alter a melody.
    – user28
    May 18, 2016 at 23:29
  • @MatthewRead Apparently my answer snuck in before you closed the question. As a songwriter who encounters this situation often, I recognize that once you have a melody in mind, it's hard to deviate too much from where you start. So it's really not a question about how to compose a melody (which has been asked and answered multiple times on this site) which would be broad, but more about how to maintain the basic structure of the song you wrote (including the melody) while changing it in a way that prevents it being a too much like the melody from another work. May 18, 2016 at 23:43
  • @MatthewRead But I agree the legal advice part of the question is off topic and should be edited in a way that avoids asking a legal question. May 18, 2016 at 23:45
  • After the edit, I'd like to see this considered for reopening as it is no longer a legal question.
    – user45266
    Aug 1, 2021 at 23:34
  • @user45266 "What should I do to prevent copyright infringement?Is the evidence of this post dangerous enough that that portion of the melody is stained no matter how hard I try to rearrange it?" is still very much a legal question over musical. Also it was rolled back to the 1st edit so there has been no content edited since the first revision on the current revision.
    – Dom
    Aug 2, 2021 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


Believe it or not what you are experiencing is very common and often done unconsciously without you even realizing what you are doing. Chord progressions cannot be copyrighted because there are only a certain number of common chords that fit in a given key. You might have seen the Axis of Awesome video where they demonstrate that the same chord progression is found in hundreds of songs.

But subconsciously - a given chord progression may suggest a particular melody that you have heard before and you end up composing a song that ends up with a melody that sounds very much like a copyrighted work.

When that happens to me I find that the most effective way to arrive at a new melody, is to make a minor change to the chord progression. Perhaps I will throw in a fourth chord if my verse progression has only three chords. Or change the order of two of the chords. Either of these changes will usually take your melody on a detour (different direction) from where you started and you end up with a unique melody.

If I really don't want to change my chord progression, I might reverse the order of some of the melody notes or jump an octave between lines of the verse as it leads into the chorus.

If I'm still hearing another copyrighted song in my melody after making the changes suggested above, I might try adding a bridge or key change to further differentiate my composition from the one that subconsciously manifested in my original melody.

Disclaimer - none of anything I say is to be construed as legal advice. I personally try to be sure I'm not accused by a listener of copying the melody of another artists work. But I don't worry too much about it either - because none of my songs are a blatant attempt to copy some other song. But I am sure some portions of some of the melodies I have composed are going to sound like something someone has heard before. With thousands of song melodies dancing around in my subconscious - it's simply unavoidable.

Good luck and have fun with your composing.


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