Aug 2, 2022

Sam Smith Defends Copyright Lawsuit

People are no doubt aware that Ed Sheeran successfully defended claims of copyright infringement in respect of his ‘Shape of You’ song in the UK courts a couple of months ago. Despite this, the flood of claims against well-known artists for copyright infringement continues with an action in the USA against Sam Smith and Normani. The case against the artists alleges that their 2019 hit ‘Dancing with a Stranger’ infringes the copyright in a 2015 song of the same name.

The original lawsuit was filed back in March by three songwriters under the company Sound and Colour LLC but Smith and Normani have now filed a Defence alleging the claim is rambling and repetitive and that there are fundamental problems with the allegations made. They have asked the court to dismiss various aspects of the case on that basis.

It is now common in copyright litigation around music for the parties to seek to rely on the opinion of expert musicologists to support the claim of copying or of the songs being different. On this occasion the lawyers for Smith and Normani are claiming that the report relied upon by the Claimants does not in fact support their case. This seems to be based on two main statements. Firstly that the report describes a transcription of the music which shows eight notes in Smith’s song and nine notes in the Claimants’ song with only the first and sixth notes being the same. Secondly it is claimed that the report accepts that the melodies of the two songs are different but claims similarity in melodic contour and rhythm. Lawyers for Smith and Normani argue that this is too abstract to be protected by copyright. For their part the lawyers for the Claimants’ have released a statement claiming that attempt is a technical motion that will have little impact on the case moving to trial.

This case continues a trend of well known artists being targeted with copyright infringement allegations. It also however appears to highlight a growing trend, perhaps emboldened by the success of Ed Sheeran, of artists fighting these allegations strongly. It will be interesting to see if Smith and Normani succeed in fighting the case and continue the fightback for famous artists. If this case raises any questions or concerns for you please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniels Law on 0191 281 4000 or by email to legal@mcdanielslaw.com.

in: Consumer Law, Copyright, EU/International, Legal News, News

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