Controversy

Mariah Carey is sued for plagiarism over “All I Want for Christmas” and I can’t figure out why.

Beware: I’m about to defend Mariah Carey’s music. I know, right?

Like many millions around the planet, I detest the ubiquitousness of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” every holiday season. It’s just one of those things you have to endure. That being said, it’s one of the most successful Christmas-themed songs in history, earning tens of millions of dollars since it was released in 1994.

Lore has it that Mariah was badgered by her label into recording a Christmas song, something that was seen as almost a novelty at the time. She turned to songwriter Walter Afanasieff and the two of them cranked out “All I Want” rather quickly–15 minutes for the basic bits. It was released that fall and the rest is history.

Fast-forward to today and a guy named Andy Stone, who wrote a twangy country song for Vince & The Valiants in 1989 called, yes, “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Stone has launched legal action against Carey saying that she ripped him off. The claim is that his song got a lot of radio airplay in 1993. And then SURPRISE! The following year, Mariah’s song comes out. Coincidence? NO!

I quote from the complaint: “Plaintiff [Stone] personally requested that Defendants [Carey and Afanasieff] cease and desist from further distribution of Plaintiff’s work. Despite Plaintiff’s request, Defendants continue to exploit Plaintiff’s work ‘All I Want for Christmas is You,’ reaping tremendous financial awards and other pecuniary benefits to the detriment of Plaintiff.”

It continues: “[Carey and Afanssieff] knowingly, willfully and intentionally engaged in a campaign to infringe [Stone’s] copyright in the work … to the commercial gain, personal profit and unjust enrichment of the defendants and the irreparable injury and financial loss.”

And now Stone wants US$20 million in damages.

Hang on. The songs may have the same title, the two songs share no melody or lyrics. The only thing they seem to have in common is the title–and song titles cannot be copyrighted or trademarked.

This is obviously silly and another example of how the US copyright system is broken.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38022 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Mariah Carey is sued for plagiarism over “All I Want for Christmas” and I can’t figure out why.

  • The lyrics and gyst of the song are the almost exact same song man. Some of the lyrics were subtlety changed and it was sped up a little but it is the same song. That’s why everytime I heard mariahs version I always just figured it was a cover. But now I realize she just ripped it off. Its obvious. But she is a super star and he’s a never was so she probably will get away with it and people like you playing dumb like she is doesn’t help.

    Reply

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