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Wednesday 24 April 2019

LISTEN: Blurred Lines trial - 'Ice Ice Baby', 'Stay With Me' and other hit songs to face plagiarism claims

Jess Denham

Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke have become the latest high-profile musicians ordered to pay up for copying another song, after the “Blurred Lines” trial concluded last night.

The jury decided that the chart-topping singers had infringed the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s Seventies track “Got To Give It Up” and $7.3 million was awarded to his family.

But “Blurred Lines” is not the only song to sound a little too similar to another. Many incidents of apparent plagiarism are purely a result of coincidence, but here are some of the tunes that got legal teams all hot under the collar.

1) “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice vs. “Under Pressure” by Queen

Vanilla Ice’s catchy 1990 song sampled Queen’s famous hit without crediting them as songwriters, as was common in the hip-hop genre at the time. Ice, real name Robert Van Winkle, settled outside court for an undisclosed amount.

2) “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith vs. “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty

This recent case was dealt with quietly earlier this year, after Petty’s publishers brought the resemblance to the attention of Smith, acknowledging that it was a “musical accident”. Petty’s name was quickly added to the “Stay With Me” credits, shortly before it won Record of the Year at the Grammys.

3) “The Old Man Down the Road” by John Fogerty vs. “Run Through The Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Bizarre does not cover it. The CCR frontman was sued by his former label for his 1985 solo song, which it claimed sounded too much like a song he wrote for his band in 1970 that it owned the rights to. Fogerty won the case but a countersuit over attorneys’ fees led to a decades-long feud.

4) “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay vs. “If I Could Fly” by Joe Satriani

Satriani guitarist sued Chris Martin’s band for allegedly stealing “substantial original portions” of his instrumental piece for their 2008 hit. Coldplay denied the claims and the case was settled privately.

Singer Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens) also took issue with “Viva La Vida”, saying it sounded like his Seventies song “Foreigner Suite”. He decided not to pursue the issue however, going after The Flaming Lips for “Fight Test” instead and winning a share of their royalties after spotting similarities with his classic “Father and Son”.

5) “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison vs. “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons

This lengthy lawsuit found Harrison’s song to be “unconscious copyright” of the girl group’s 1962 hit. Unfortunately a complex twist came because by the time the verdict was delivered, former Beatles manager Allen Klein had bought the rights to The Chiffons’ track. Harrison ended up owning it himself.


Other famous clashes include “Come Together” by The Beatles and “You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry; the Ghostbusters theme tune by Ray Parker Jr and “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis; and “Creep” by Radiohead sampling “The Air That I Breathe” by Albert Hammond.

READ: Tom Petty tells Sam Smith 'no hard feelings' over plagiarism controversy... but they will split the royalties

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