Singers Racking Up Lawsuits like Hit Records

Maybe the unintentional downside of the internet’s ubiquity is the ability to hear someone else’s song and borrow it for inspiration—only to later face a lawsuit accusing an artist of some degree of theft.

Two singers are facing copyright lawsuits: Demi Lovato is being sued by Sleigh Bells for allegedly using part of their song for a track on her new album, while Ariana Grande is facing accusations of plagiarism by another songwriter.

Alex Greggs has filed a lawsuit saying Grande took parts of “Takes All Night,” a song he wrote for Skye Stevens, and repurposed it for her 2015 song “One Last Time.” But Greggs isn’t just suing Grande: he’s also named David Guetta, Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk, Universal Music Group and Republic records in the suit.

In the lawsuit, Greggs claims the similarity between his “Takes All Night” and Grande’s “One Last Time” is “so striking that it is highly likely the works were not created independently of one another,” Variety reports.

“Although the rhythm of the two compositions may differ to accommodate the prosody of the lyrics, there is substantial similarity on the most important rhythmic placement of the pitches on strong melodic and harmonic beats (1 and 3) which are what the listener perceives as most definitive of melody and, to a lesser extent, the harmonic accompaniment to a given melody,” the lawsuit says.  He’s seeking $150,000 in damage as a settlement on each infringement.

In Lovato’s case, Sleigh Bells first accused her of copyright infringement more than nine months ago, the LA Times reports.

The lawsuit, filed last week in a California federal court, accuses Lovato and her writing team of directly taking material from their 2010 song “Infinity Guitars” for Lovato’s song “Stars.” Carl Frank and Rami Yacoub, Lovato’s producers, and UMG Recordings, which owns Lovato’s label, are also facing legal action.

(That’s right: Yacoub is named in both suits. Interesting, no?)

Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, aka Sleigh Bells, state in the lawsuit that “at the very least, the combination of the hand claps and bass drum, structured as 3 quarter beats and a rest, with the bass drum providing a counter-rhythm to the hand claps, is at least substantially similar in both works.”

The lawsuit continues, “The signal decay and other sonic signatures in each of the songs are comprised of and contain virtually identical content, and analyses of the two songs reveal that they are, at least in part, substantially similar, virtually identical, or identical.”

Lovato’s team should have seen this coming: When Lovato’s album was released last October, Sleigh Bells responded to questions of whether Lovato’s track sampled Sleigh Bells’ song. “Flattered you guys sampled ‘Infinity Guitars’ & “Riot Rhythm’ for ‘Stars’ but we were not contacted. Gotta clear those,” they tweeted.

And just in case anyone’s curious, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams are still working to get their $5.3 million in damages owed to the family of Marvin Gaye overturned in a nearly year-old decision regarding similarities between “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up,” Vice reports. In an appeal filed last week, attorneys for Thick, Williams and T.I. argue “the judge should have never allowed the trial to occur, and also claims the jury was unfairly influenced by both hearing the actual ‘Blurred Lines’ recording and not being told to ignore parts of the song that are not protected by copyright.”  In addition to the $5.3 million in damages, Thick, Williams and T.I. are responsible for paying Gaye’s family half of the songwriter and publishing revenues for the song.

 

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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