Jan 29, 2015

Musician Sam Smith Settles Copyright Dispute

British musician Sam Smith released the song "Stay with Me" in April 2014, which was nominated for the Song of the Year at this year's Grammy Awards. Listeners quickly noticed a resemblance to the song "I won't back down" by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers from 1989.

Tom Petty co-wrote the song "I won't back down" with Jeff Lynne from the band ELO and on discovering the similarities with the song "Stay with me", their representatives contacted Sam Smith. Although Smith claimed that the resemblance was complete co-incidence, he agreed to reach an amicable settlement out of Court in October 2014.

Both parties agreed that there were undeniable similarities between the songs. Petty and Lynne are now listed as co-writers on the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. They have also reportedly been given a share of the song writing royalties. The melodies of the chorus in the two songs are very similar and it is possible to subconsciously infringe copyright. Therefore, had this case gone to court, there may have been a successful claim of copyright infringement.

Subconscious copying was found in ABKCO Music, Inc v Harrisongs Music, Ltd., where in writing the song "My Sweet Lord", George Harrison was found to have subconsciously copied The Chiffons' "He's So Fine," which was released six years earlier. The court found that "the similarity was so striking and where access was found, the remoteness of that access provides no basis for reversal."

in: Case Law, Copyright, News

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