Creative property is a delicate thing. It also holds lots of power. You can listen to a few seconds of a song and immediately know the artist. This is why retaining the rights to music and songs has long been precious to artists. After all, their fame due to artistic work is their livelihood. A song that an artist creates is also an artistic structure that can capture a certain moment in time, making the composition even more significant.
But there are those times where the lines get “blurred” in terms of which music belongs to whom. There are remixes of songs that were popular in decades past that have been revived again by today’s singers. Then there are songs with similar rhythms and melodies to other songs. In these cases, did the artist who sang or performed the song last, steal creative property from the original artist? Should the artist who didn't sing or compose the song originally be punished? Or is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Is imitation without proper acknowledgment grounds for suing? Apparently, yes. Here are 10 well-known artists, whose songs you probably enjoy on a regular basis, who have been sued for not handling creative property with the fragile and attentive care it deserves.
The band Oasis has done its share of “being inspired” by other artists and jingles in order to create their albums. The band even used melodies and arrangements that on their song “Step Out” sounded very similar to “Uptight,” a song composed by the legendary Stevie Wonder. The legal actions Wonder took aren't fully disclosed, but the song “Step Out” was part of Oasis’ early promotion of their project before it was pulled from the album. When the song reappeared on the album, Stevie Wonder was given songwriter credit.
8 Ray Parker, Jr.
Ray Parker, Jr. is perhaps best known for being nominated for an Oscar for writing the theme song to Ghostbusters. But Huey Lewis probably wasn't too thrilled about the news. Lewis sued Columbia Pictures and Parker, claiming that the song sounded a lot like Huey Lewis and The News’ tune, “I Want a New Drug" which was released shortly before the Ghostbusters movie. The case was settled out of court. However, Lewis violated his confidentiality agreement when he discussed the legal matter in 2001 on VH1’s Behind the Music. This led to Ray Parker suing Huey Lewis.
7 Avril Lavigne
5 Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams
The family of Marvin Gaye recently sued artists Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, for using the rhythm and melodic progressions from Marvin Gaye’s 1970s hit “Got To Give It Up”. After receiving threats from the Gaye family, Thicke and Williams filed a lawsuit in 2014, in an attempt to prove that their song “Blurred Lines” was an original. A California judge, however, ruled that parts of “Blurred Lines” bore a strong resemblance to Marvin Gaye’s tune. Williams and Thicke were originally supposed to pay $7.2 million to the Gaye family, but eventually settled the case with an undisclosed amount.
4 Beyonce and Jay-Z
3 Rod Stewart
2 Johnny Cash
1 John Lennon
John Lennon was sued by Chuck Berry’s publishing company for using lines and melodies that came from Berry’s song, “You Can’t Catch Me". While it’s hard for musicians not to be influenced by Chuck Berry’s tonal compilations and guitar riffs, you’ve got to give credit where it’s due legally. The melodies from “You Can’t Catch Me” were featured in “Come Together”, one of the most popular hits from The Beatles. Lennon agreed to record three songs as part of the settlement, including a cover of Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” for Lennon’s cover album entitled Rock ‘N’ Roll. Lennon was also contractually obligated to record two other songs owned by Morris Levy to satisfy the settlement terms, which led to a long legal battle between Lennon and Levy.
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