1 January

Pick a Day

Timeline : Song Copyright Infringement Lawsuits

January 7, 1963

Gary U.S. Bonds sues Chubby Checker, claiming that Checker's "Dancing Party" is essentially a rewrite of Bonds' hit "Quarter To Three." The case is settled out of court.

October 14, 1971

Little Richard's publisher sues Creedence Clearwater Revival, claiming "Travelin' Band" is too similar to Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly." A settlement is eventually reached.

August 31, 1976

George Harrison is found guilty of "subconscious plagiarism" in a bizarre lawsuit that leaves songwriters baffled.More

July 23, 1984

An appeals court overturnes a ruling that the Bee Gees plagiarized a song called "Let It End" on their hit "How Deep Is Your Love." The judge agrees that there are "striking similarities" between the two songs, but believes the Bee Gees claim that they hadn't heard "Let It End," which was never released and only available as a demo sent to publishers. The case puts the onus on plaintiffs to prove that defendants had access to songs they are accused of copying.

July 22, 1987

Morris Albert is found guilty of plagiarizing the 1956 French composition "Pour Toi" on his hit "Feelings." Louis Gasté, the composer of "Pour Toi," is added to the writers credit.

October 24, 1988

John Fogerty's trial begins. He is accused of plagiarizing himself by using elements of his Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Run Through The Jungle" for his 1985 solo hit "The Old Man Down The Road." The suit is brought by his nemesis and former label boss Saul Zaentz, who owns the publishing on "Jungle." Fogerty wins the case.

February 22, 1990

A jury rules that Stevie Wonder didn't not infringe on a song written in 1976 called "I Just Called To Say" on his hit "I Just Called To Say I Love You." The lawsuit was filed in 1985 by "I Just Called To Say" writers Lee Garrett and Lloyd Chiate, but in 1986, Garrett, a childhood friend of Wonder's, pulls out of the case.

June 12, 1992

Jordan and Danny of New Kids on the Block are acquitted in copyright-infringement charges stemming from their song "I'll Be Your Everything," which the estate of Percy Sledge claimed borrowed heavily from Sledge's 1975 song of the same name.

March 7, 1994

The Supreme Court rules that parody constitutes fair use in deciding that 2 Live Crew's version of Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman" (where the woman is now big and hairy) is legal.More

April 25, 1994

A jury rules that Michael Bolton's 1991 hit "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" plagiarizes The Isley Brothers 1966 song of the same name and awards $5.4 million in damages, the largest ever in a music plagiarism case.More

November 3, 1995

Hootie & the Blowfish settle out of court with Bob Dylan, who sees their lifting of lyrics from "Tangled Up In Blue" on their hit "Only Want To Be With You" as more plagiarism than tribute.

March 16, 2005

Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Janie Coffey loses an action in England's High Court for copyright infringement in her claim that Madonna's song "Nothing Really Matters" infringed on a song Coffey had written earlier.

March 21, 2006

Six years after filing suit, the family of African musician Solomon Linda, who wrote and recorded the original version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," reach an agreement with the song's publisher, giving them some royalties. Linda, who died in 1962, signed away rights to the song in 1952.

May 13, 2008

The Turtles' Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, better known as "Flo and Eddie," sue Capitol Records for allowing Ice Cube to sample the group's 1972 song "Buzzsaw" for Cube's 1992 hit "Jackin' For Beats."

February 4, 2010

A judge rules that the flute riff of the Men at Work song "Down Under" plagiarizes another Australian classic: the 1932 song "Kookaburra."More

June 28, 2010

Jake Holmes finally gets around to suing Led Zeppelin for plagiarizing his 1967 song "Dazed And Confused." Led Zeppelin released a very similar song with the same title on their 1969 debut album, but Holmes waited decades to take legal action. The case is eventually settled, with the writing credit on the song changed to "Jimmy Page, Inspired By Jake Holmes."

January 6, 2012

Wiz Khalifa is sued for $2.3 million over his hit song "Black and Yellow." Max Warren, who raps under the name "Maxamillion," claims Khalifa, his producers, and his label stole the song from him. In the lawsuit, Warren states that the idea for the song was taken from his copyrighted 2007 song "Pink and Yellow." Khalifa claims he's never heard of Warren or his music.

December 18, 2012

Songwriter Earl Shuman files a copyright infringement lawsuit against singer Alicia Keys, claiming her Top 20 single "Girl On Fire" sounds too much like Shuman's 1970 song "Lonely Boy," which ended up being recorded by Eddie Holman as "Hey There Lonely Girl." The suit is kind of vague on the details, but apparently it comes down to a few notes; Keys and Shuman later settle.

March 10, 2015

A jury awards Marvin Gaye's estate (his children Marvin III, Frankie and Nona) $7.3 million, finding that the Robin Thicke song "Blurred Lines" is too similar to Gaye's 1977 hit "Got To Give It Up."More

June 23, 2016

After a trial in which the three living members of Led Zeppelin testified, a jury rules that they are not guilty of plagiarizing the intro of "Stairway To Heaven" from the 1968 song "Taurus" by the band Spirit. In 2018, the case is sent back to trial on a technicality, but is upheld in a 2020 ruling.

July 29, 2019

In a unanimous verdict, a jury rules that Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" copied the electronic melody from the 2008 song "Joyful Noise" by the Christian hip-hop artist Flame. Three days later, the jury awards $2.78 million in damages, but in March 2020, a federal judge overturns the verdict on appeal.More

Back to Timelines

¬©2022 Songfacts®, LLC