Here’s one of the more interesting and unusual copyright infringement cases to come across the desk lately: A young pop singer has used roughly 95% of Blind Melon’s best known single, “No Rain,” claiming it’s a reworking of the song. The band, on the other hand, is suing the artist for copyright infringement because the rights for the song were never acquired.
What’s really fun is that the singer, Mandy Jiroux, openly talks about her song, “Insane,” as being a reworking of “No Rain.” There’s no dispute that she obviously, blatantly and intentionally used most of the words of the chorus and the unmistakable hook.
Jiroux isn’t an industry newcomer, exactly: She got her start as a teenager, working as a choreographer and started touring with Miley Cyrus at age 18, which led to “The Miley and Mandy Show” on YouTube.
In an interview published by iheart.com last month, Jiroux gushes about being “honored” to create a new single for herself based on that song.
“I was in the studio and with one of my producers, and we were thinking of what we could do that’s super cool and different, and single material,” she said. Her producer started playing “No Rain,” a song 28-year-old Jiroux noted that she loved the song, to the agreement of people in the room.
She threw out some ideas for how she’d reinterpret the song, “and hopefully the Blind Melon guys would let us use it. And it turned out that they loved the song so much I’m the only artist that they’ve ever let use that classic hook. It was super natural, super easy, and that’s when you know it’s right. It felt really great, and I just felt very honored, because they were so huge in classic in the nineties, so it was really just a big honor.”
Ok, except they never got the green light from the surviving members of the band to use any part of “No Rain” in a song, either a cover or a remake or a reinvention.
In the 20-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, the band and their attorneys claim Jiroux, VarCity Productions, Clifford Goilo and Lee Anna James, “the credited writers and owners of the copyrights of the infringing works, copied and exploited, without authorization, the work of the world-famous band Blind Melon, falsely claiming to have had Blind Melon’s support for use of the iconic hit ‘No Rain’ in the infringing work. This is, therefore, a somewhat unique case where substantial and verbatim copying is not disputed, but defendants will claim that they had a license to incorporate substantial portions of Blind Melon’s most successful song ‘No Rain’ into the infringing works. Defendants did not have such permission.”
The Hollywood Reporter has obtained a copy of the complaint, which states in part that “This publicity and unauthorized use has done significant damage to ‘No Rain’ and has severely damaged the copyright, by now essentially eliminating any prospect that a major artist will actually license it for a major release.”
Blind Melon is seeking a permanent injunction, which would prevent further distribution of the song, any profits Jiroux has received from sales or downloads of the single, and additional “actual damages.”
Another report, from CompleteMusicUpdate.com, indicates that Kenneth Komisar, Jiroux’s manager, contacted Blind Melon’s manager Keith Isola in May to discuss Jiroux covering the song. There was a subsequent conversation with Brad Smith, one of the band’s guitarists who happens to own a controlling interest in the copyright to “No Rain.” At the time, Smith and Isola told Komisar no permissions would be needed if Jiroux were doing a straightforward cover of the song, but Komisar needed to make sure “the formalities of the compulsory license were complied with,” as established in Section 115 of the Copyright Act. After a while, it became clear to the band that Jiroux’s song would not be a straight cover due to differences in lyrics, musical arrangement and title and, in fact, a bespoke license would be needed, one the band would not grant.
“Team Melon allege that, even after telling Komisar that they would not grant permission for the adaptation of their song, the manager continued to correspond as if a deal had been done and ‘Insane’ had or would get their approval.”
Here’s the original, if by chance you’re not familiar:
And here’s “Insane,” by Jiroux:
Oh, by the way? One of Blind Melon’s attorneys, Richard Busch? He’s the same guy working on behalf of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in their lawsuit with Marvin Gaye’s family over “Blurred Lines.”
This is why I love writing about lawsuits regarding music.