An article from The Hollywood Reporter featured claims that the Oscar-winning single “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was plagiarized.

The story centers on Norwegian pianist Rune Alver finding sheet music dated back to 1910, alleging that it’s similar to the Judy Garland single performed in “The Wizard of Oz” film — released almost 30 years after.

Alver’s discovery

According to the The Hollywood Reporter, a decade ago Alver was looking into a Scandinavian composer named Signe Lund and unearthed “Concert Étude, Opus 38.” He claims Lund performed the composition, “the most popular of her pieces,” in multiple American cities.

While the main melodies were close to identical, it wasn’t a one-for-one. As an example, Lund’s composition is played in a minor key and holds a different time signature, which reportedly differs from the “Wizard of Oz” version composed by Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg.

Speculation about how this occurred

Having developed a prolific career in Norway for several decades, Lund traveled across the U.S. in the early 1900s as both a notable composer and classical music teacher, per The Hollywood Reporter. During this time, Arlen was developing into a noted composer from Buffalo, New York, guided by the primary conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Arnold Cornelissen.

It’s alleged when Lund performed in Buffalo in September 1917 — when Arlen was 12 and immersed in classical music — Cornelissen potentially introduced his student to some of Lund’s music. In addition, one of Arlen’s earliest jobs was to promote sheet music sales by performing them, so there’s a chance a Lund composition could’ve snuck in.

Despite this, Harburg claimed that Arlen was “frightened” of his music pieces “sounding like something else,” having been scared from a plagiarism claim early in his career, The Hollywood Reporter shared.

The ‘Wicked’ responses

Theater composer Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the “Wizard of Oz” prequel “Wicked,” was asked by The Hollywood Reporter to weigh in on the matter. He said that he could “hear the similarity” between the two compositions, but would “strongly challenge” the person who claimed it was plagiarism.

“What I would suspect happened is one of two things: I’d say it’s a coincidence, or maybe possibly something that Arlen heard or played when he was young, and it just became part of the palette from which he drew,” Schwartz said to The Hollywood Reporter.

However, entertainment attorney Jane Davidson disagreed and stated the similarities would’ve been enough for litigation. Additionally, Arlen’s son claimed there’s “no question” between each song.

“Whether it was intentional, no one knows,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Does music get plagiarized?

It’s no secret that musicians accuse and get accused of musical plagiarism. FindLaw featured 10 plagiarism cases, including:

  • Chuck Berry v. The Beach Boys.
  • Fantasy v. John Fogerty.
  • Queen/David Bowie v. Vanilla Ice.
  • Marvin Gaye v. Ed Sheeran.
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Music plagiarism cases have existed for decades, yet Billboard claims it’s become heightened since the 2010s. This increase reportedly started from litigation favoring Marvin Gaye’s estate over Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ song “Blurred Lines,” resulting in songwriters opting to give credit to other scribes’ copyrighted material bearing “even a passing resemblance to theirs” to avoid a lawsuit.

The legacy of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’

It cannot be known if Arlen did or did not plagiarize from Lund — he passed away in 1986 — but his and Harburg’s song remains iconic to this day, having been covered hundreds of times by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Patti LaBelle and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

“It has become part of my life,” Garland said regarding the song, per The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s still the song that is closest to my heart.”

Arlen’s son told The Hollywood Reporter that his father didn’t know “Somewhere Over the Rainbow“ would define his career. “He was not one to speak much. He just wanted to write, and he always felt that his music would do the talking.”