To the average person copyrights is not something they deal with, but it's incredibly important to learn what how much control over your own content you have. Why? Because ingenuity is not accomplished simply by those who create something new, it's also derivative and patched up of parts. There are people who are in fact willing to use your creative ideas and content to inspire and build their own.
The catch 22 is of course exactly how much copying is still copying? An obvious and recent case is Jay Z the provided examples clearly show that Jay Z didn't add much value to the original song sampled, but of course the song he made is at least in part his. The right thing to do is obvious...pay up to the original artist! The popularity of a song or rift oftentimes sadly is dependant on who puts it all together, but that doesn't prevent the original artists from using the new leaf as an extension of their own.
But then there's a bit of a limit and a sort of confusion as to when the creative spark is no longer really due to some artist, or whether they deserve some part of a new work. A prime example running around now is here where the songs in question do not sound that similar, but the newer version is unquestionably inspired by one artist (as admitted by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams).
The sad reality is that both instances are clear examples why it's frustrating to be a musician. On one side it'd be amazing to build off of anyone's work and be inspired by every rift and note you hear, you may not feel that the end result is really a derivative work when you're done. However on the flip side when you're done creating something new, you want credit for it when it appears in someone else's work, even if it's a tiny piece (after all everyone wants as much recognition as possible).
This is the dilema of the copyright mentality, how can you protect something original if in fact parts of it aren't at all?
And now we're getting to the #Thicke of it
(taken from article above)
The answer is simply that no matter the rationale we put behind it, there will be both the copy-cats and the victims of stolen intellectual property. However as noted, in a way we're all copy-cats and in some way we've pieced together some creative elements from someone else. So what's the best thing to do?
Credit Your Inspirations
Now this is a stretch from the usual, If I copied and pasted X, Y and Z I need to credit X, Y and Z absolute answer. That's to say if someone comes along listens in and goes...
Ahhhh That Sounds Like...
You've already acknowledged it...now this doesn't protect you by legal means, but when said artist comes around, instead of going...
Hey! What are you doing with my work?
The artist in question might be more inclined to go...
Huh...look at that, they took what I did and made it a part of something cooler
It's this atmosphere in which "mashups" are made, and I believe it's the mashup community which may have poked the bear of what copyright can protect, but also has made it possible for multiple sets of artists working together without the worry of a massive money hammer of copyright infringement hanging over their heads. As a matter of fact I think it's the mashup mentality which is the most honest, that awesome songs and tracks are more often than not inspired mostly by others and the most creative (weird my biases, are they not?).
Now I hope in both instances the artists in question resolve their differences. I honestly lean towards Jayz paying up a bit more in terms of royalties because the sampling in question is a little much and that Thicke is an example why people should credit by inspiration, so that there's a more agreeable outcome on both sides.