The Top 10 Music Plagiarism Cases of All Time

The wildly popular English artist and singer Ed Sheeran, who prevailed in a case of music plagiarism on April 6, has said that enough was enough.

Musicians face multiple lawsuits from fellow musicians and even songwriters, the musician said in a YouTube video after the victory in the London court. They, he added are based on a money-making settlement being their primary goal “even even if there’s not a basis to support this claim.”

Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue Ross O’Donoghue and Sami Chokri filed suit against Sheeran and the co-writers of his 2017 smash “Shape of You,”” asserting they believed that it was the “Oh I” line in the Sheeran tune copied Chokri’s song from 2015 “Oh What.” However, High Court Justice Antony Zacaroli dismissed the lawsuit in the end, concluding that Sheeran “neither conscious nor in a way” copied the song.

In both the U.K. and the U.S. Songs automatically receive the protection of copyrights after being recorded. If a musician believes that someone copied their work it must prove the copycat’s creator had two actions.

  • It is likely that they had access to the music before they composed their own version.
  • The copied song has to be very similar to that from the original which it was ripped off.

These two conditions makes it difficult for plaintiffs in lawsuits involving music-related plagiarism, and this is what was the case in the ruling of Zacaroli. Musical coincidents “are not unusual,” and Chokri’s song was “far away from being a clear origin” for the song of Sheeran as the judge noted.

However, as Sheeran stated: “There are only so numerous notes and a only a few chords that are used within pop songs. There are always coincidences in the event that 60,000 songs are published every single day via Spotify.”

This ruling is similar to the decision of a U.S. federal appellate court ruling in favor of pop artist Katy Perry for allegedly plagiarizing portions of her song “Dark Horse” by rapper Flame’s track “Joyful Sound.”

The Top 10

There’s been a lot of musical “plagiarism” cases throughout the past few years. With the success of Sheeran this week, it’s the perfect opportunity to walk through the past and take a take a look at the most fascinating instances of the past:

1. The Chiffons The Chiffons. George Harrison

The former Beatle had a huge success in 1970 with “My Dear Lord” in the year 1970. The song included a tune like The Chiffons’ 1963 hit, “He’s So Fine.” The composer of the song, Ronnie Mack, sued for damages, and the U.S. District Court found that Harrison was “subconsciously” duplicated Mack’s song however, it also found that both songs were “virtually similar” and required Harrison to settle for the sum of $587,000.

2. Chuck Berry v. The Beach Boys

It was the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson did not deny that the group’s initial big success, “Surfin’ USA,” was not an honor to rock legendary Chuck Berry and his tune, “Sweet Little Sixteen.” In 1963, when Berry threatened legal actions in 1963, the Beach Boys handed over publishing rights to “Surfin’ U.S.A.” to Berry the man they revered.

3. Fantasy and. John Fogerty

It could be the most bizarre copyright cases in music history. John Fogerty, the former head of Creedence Clearwater Revival, hit the big time as a solo performer through “The Old man Down the road.” The label that CCR used to record under, Fantasy, sued, because it sounded as the original CCR track “Run through the jungle.” It turns out that Fogerty composed “Run through the jungle” himself. Also the song had to be proved that he didn’t sound the same as the original. He took his guitar before the court to prove the difference between two tracks and won.

4. Slipknot V. Burger King

This could be the next most bizarre copyright situation in music. The year 2005 was the time Burger King introduced a new item named Chicken Fries and launched an advertisement campaign that featured an imaginary metal group called Coq Roq in support of the product. Slipknot is famous for their wear of gory masks, threatened to take on BK because they were copying Slipknots their own branding. In some way, Slipknot wasn’t fazed by the reality they Coq Roq group were wearing chicken masks , which looked more humorous than frightening. If cooler heads prevailed, Slipknot dropped the threatened suit.

5. The New Seekers v. Oasis

Oasis their debut album from 1994 featured the track “Shakermaker,” which sounded very similar to The New Seekers’ uplifting 1971 hit song, “I’d Like to Teach the people of the world to sing.” Strangely enough, the song was originally a commercial for Coca-Cola as well as Oasis guitar player Noel Gallagher intended the song to be a song that reflected his childhood. This didn’t matter for The New Seekers, and Oasis resolved the matter with a figure of $500,000.

6. Queen as well as David Bowie v. Vanilla Ice

David Bowie and Queen teamed with Queen for their 1981 smash record “Under Pressure.” Nine years after, the song’s bass line of the track was featured as a reference in the rapper Vanilla Ice’s hit song, “Ice Ice Baby.” Vanilla Ice ultimately settled the case with an undetermined amount after Bowie as well as Queen were sued by Queen and Bowie.

7. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. De La Soul

In 1989, hip-hop group DeLa Soul’s song “Transmitting Live From Mars” contained a track that sampled the initial four bars from the 1969 Turtles track, “You Showed Me.” De La Soul gained approval to use samples of other artists on “Three Feet High and Rising,” but the Turtles track did not make it onto the album. Turtles Members Volman and Kaylan were sued and ultimately, the two parties resolved the dispute with a figure of $1.7 million.

8. Lana Del Ray v. Radiohead v. Albert Hammond

In 2018, the legends of alternative music Radiohead threatened legal lawsuits against American artist Lana Del Ray over similarities to her track “Get Free” as well as their debut success, “Creep.” Even though Del Ray had claimed she had been sued by Radiohead, the producers claimed they didn’t file an action and Del Ray announced, without additional explanations the dispute ended “over.” It’s a bit ironic that Radiohead was successfully sued over plagiarism by the songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood in connection with the tune they wrote, “The Air That I breathe,” the 70s smash hit by The Hollies. Hammond and Hazlewood have been credited for their roles as Creep co-writers.

9. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke. Marvin Gaye

In 2013, the singer and songwriter Robin Thicke wrote a song, “Blurred Lines,” with vocalist Pharrell Williams as well as rapper T.I. It was a bit like “Got to Give It Up” the 1977 hit song of soul and R&B legend Marvin Gaye. The Gaye family filed a lawsuit and won after the judge ordered them to give the estate of Gaye $5 million for 2018.

10. Marvin Gaye v. Ed Sheeran

They’re back. The late music producer Ed Townsend co-wrote the Gaye track “Let’s Go On”” first released in 1973. The moment that Sheeran’s song “Thinking Out Loud” was a huge success the estate of Townsend filed a lawsuit against the artist for copyright violation. The suit was dismissed in the year 2017. However, in 2018 another entity that claimed an ownership share of the song’s copyright lawsuit Sheeran for 100 million dollars. Then, in March of 2021 the judge rejected Sheeran’s request to dismiss.

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