If you write a line, you write it. I'd want credit.
Wanting something doesn't make it right
To me this is a really interesting discussion, and The Good Wife did an episode on it last week. The question is ultimately, where do you draw the line? For instance, if you are a writer and hear someone make a comment and it inspires a song, should that person who inspired you get a writing credit? If you're a painter and a friend or someone suggests you use a certain color for part of the painting, should they get credit for the painting? If I'm a female singer and find a song by a male writer and change the pronouns in the song and nothing else, do I get a writing credit? Where does it stop?
I think traditionally credit goes to the person/team who actively participate in the creation and evolution of the song. Sometimes someone may be called in for a re-write or something (a la Mariah with "#Beautiful") and then get a credit, too. But usually someone who essentially 'edits' a song or just gives a suggestion is not going to get a writing credit. If that were the case, songs would have like 20 writers because producers, execs, friends, and family often give feedback.
To get it back to Gaga specifically, would a non-celebrity have gotten a writing credit for that little of contribution? No. Gaga's name was put on it for marketing purposes, which to be fair worked. But for her to potentially be an Oscar winner because she helped write 1 sentence is pretty lame. Can we not agree on that at least?
Good post, good question.
Funnily enough, I had this situation in work recently. Someone came up with an album campaign launch that was very clever and very much started with them. I fed a few ideas to expand it digitally and last week someone was suggesting it was my idea and how clever it was. I stopped them right away and said the real core of the idea came from someone else and they deserved the real credit/praise. I'm very funny about things like that.
In terms of a song, does literally changing one line in a song really add that much to the overall track?
If you didn't and say the old line remained and it wasn't all that, would it really impact the rest of the song? The 98% you weren't involved with? Realistically you just want your fingerprint on it in some way for financial reasons and potential royalties. Its a pity there isn't more of a structure on these things, the same way TV production has regulations on how often an actor can contribute to a season before they legally are contributing enough to have to become a regular cast member on the required pay for that credit. Being able to change one bloody word or line and you're credited and due money has always struck me as daft.