Just a few weeks after Tom Scharpling accused Google of ripping off one of his songs for one of its commercials, Dave Hill has done the same thing. In a fairly damning tweet, Hill questions whether the internet mega-company copied his group Valley Lodge’s track “Go,” which casual observers might know as the theme song for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In his tweet, Hill posts both tracks, which are, in fact, fairly similar.
In an interview with The A.V. Club, Hill said he’s been aware of the Google ad for a few months, having seen it on Twitter. He subsequently sent it to his music publisher, but never heard anything back and was just reminded of the hinky legality of the whole thing when he realized Scharpling was going through the same process. (Hill and Scharpling have multiple ties: Hill took over Scharpling’s Best Show On WFMU time slot last year when he launched The Goddamn Dave Hill Show, and Hill appeared on The Best Show in 2012.) As Hill puts it, what Google did is like “if some guy stole my TV and sold it in front of my apartment,” saying that Google’s whole schtick is “lame.”
Hill says he’s consulted several music publishing friends, all of whom not only say it’s unquestionably his riff, but that it’s common practice for a company like Google to tell a composer that they want a jingle to sound like a song—”Go,” for example—but that they don’t want to pay for the original song’s rights. Thus, the company will essentially ask said composer to just rip it off by changing a few notes or the key of the song. Hill says one of his music publishing friends told him, “for what these things pay, they could have just hired you.” Though, as he put it, “[Google] could have done anything else and it would have been just as effective for their pathetic usage. They could have strummed a G-chord for a minute and it would have been just as interesting.”
It’s worth noting that Hill recognizes that “there’s a lot of thievery and borrowing in music,” and that his “Go” riff isn’t entirely original—he’s previously been told that it features pretty prominently in a song by the Cure, though he says he “wasn’t inspired” by that song “at all.” That being said, Hill says what Google did is especially despicable because it’s “the exact same rhythm and the exact same notes at the exact same time,” noting that the internet company “basically just cut [his] song in half and looped it.” In Scharpling’s case, Hill says, Google straight up “stole his song. They changed two words to this thing he came up with,” noting that he played it on his radio show last night and that, when crossfaded, the songs “just go right into each other.”
Though Hill says he’s consulted his music publisher, he’s skeptical that Google will ever bow to his complaints. He told The A.V. Club, “One of the music publishing guys I talked to said they probably changed it enough that it’s a pain in the ass to pursue,” though “a more litigious entity would scare them.” Hill also noted that he’s “a big fan of thuggery” saying that “Google is not far from my house. I’m not opposed to just throwing a rock through their window or something, or going in and stealing some laptops or something. It’s just scumbag behavior, and they know what they’re doing. He concluded, “It’s just lame behavior, really. It’s not even about the money. It’s just the fact that this massive company is just saying, ’We could do this the right way, but instead we’ll just fuck you guys,’ which seems to be their business model.”