- While the origins of some songs can be hard to pin down, numerous musicians have been accused of plagiarism by other singers or songwriters.
- Even high-profile musicians like Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Ed Sheeran have had to deal with copyright infringement lawsuits.
- Rap superstars Lil Nas X and Cardi B were also named in a recent copyright lawsuit.
- Cases are frequently settled out of court, but sometimes, as with George Harrison in 1976, a plagiarism claim can go to trial.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Plagiarism accusations and copyright infringement lawsuits are nothing new in music. Major artists have fought legal battles over hit songs while others settle out of court.
Here are 35 examples of hits songs that were at the centre of accusations of plagiarism or lawsuits.
Anjelica Oswald contributed reporting to an earlier version of this story.
The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar are being accused of ripping off a band’s choral arrangement for their hit “Pray For Me.”
Brooklyn-based band Yeasayer is accusing the two hitmakers of lifting a “distinctive choral performance” from their 2007 song “Sunrise,” altering it, and then including it in the single “Pray For Me,” which was included on 2018’s “Black Panther” soundtrack.
According to Yeasayer, The Weeknd and Lamar used the part numerous times on the track. The band is seeking all of the profits from “Pray For Me,” and wants to remove it from air.
A singer-songwriter is accusing Ariana Grande of stealing the hook for her hit song “7 Rings.”
Singer-songwriter Josh Stone recently filed a lawsuit in New York claiming that Grande copied the hook (“I want it, I got it / I want it, I got it”) for “7 Rings” from his 2017 song “You Need It, I Got It,” which includes the phrase “You need it, I got it / You want it, I got it.”
Lizzo is being accused of stealing one of her iconic lyrics from a pair of songwriting brothers.
The “Truth Hurts” singer is being accused by Justin and Jeremiah Raisen of not giving them credit for helping to develop the song’s signature lyric: “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that b—-.”
According to the brothers, they participated in an early songwriting session with Lizzo and helped her come up with the now-iconic “Truth Hurts” line.
Adding fuel to the fire was that the tweet that reportedly inspired the Raisens to come up with the lyric was written by a British singer, who also feels that she deserves to be credited for the song.
Lizzo’s lawyer refuted the Raisens’ assertion that they helped write the song.
“The Raisens are not writers of ‘Truth Hurts,'” the lawyer told the New York Times. “They did not collaborate with Lizzo or anyone else to create this song.”
Two Georgia producers are accusing Lil Nas X and Cardi B of copying a 2017 song for their hit “Rodeo.”
The two rap stars, as well as their collaborators, have been named in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by two Atlanta producers, according to Pitchfork.
The producers in question say that Lil Nas and Cardi B’s hit song “Rodeo” is “derivative” of a recording of theirs that eventually became the song “Broad Day.” According to the lawsuit, the producers say their song was “performed, published, and distributed widely… in and around the Atlanta hip-hop scene.”
The lawsuit accused “Rodeo” of being “substantially similar” to the producers’ “Broad Day,” saying it featured a similar structure and cord progression. The producers said that Lil Nas didn’t have permission to “interpolate” or “sample” their work.
Lady Gaga is being accused of stealing her hit “Shallow” from an unknown singer-songwriter.
A SoundCloud singer-songwriter has accused singer Lady Gaga of lifting a part of his song for her 2018 hit “Shallow.”
Page Six reported on Thursday that Steve Ronsen claimed Gaga stole a three-note progression for the hook of “Shallow.” Ronsen and his lawyer say they are seeking “millions and millions” of dollars from Gaga in a settlement.
Gaga’s legal team pointed out that Ronsen’s song “Almost,” which was released in 2012, sounds nothing like Gaga’s “Shallow,” and that the note progression in question is very common, appearing in numerous other songs.
The lawyer for the”A Star is Born” actress said Gaga “will fight it vigorously and will prevail” if Ronsen and his lawyers file a lawsuit.
A jury recently found that singer Katy Perry’s hit “Dark Horse” copied a Christian rap song.
In July, a court found that Katy Perry’s 2013 single “Dark Horse” stole from a Christian rap song called “Joyful Noise,” released by musician Marcus Grey under the name Flame.
Grey, who released his song in 2009, had first sued five years ago, alleging that “Dark Horse” copied the rap song.
In August, a jury decided that “Dark Horse” did, in fact, copy “Joyful Noise.” Perry, her collaborators, and her record label have been ordered to pay Grey $US2.78 million as a result.
But Perry, her team, and her label filed an appeal to the verdict, asking courts to either overturn the verdict or allow them to proceed with a new trial.
Rapper Lil Nas X is accused of lifting parts from a Bobby Caldwell song for his single “Carry On” in a new lawsuit.
“Old Town Road” rapper Lil Nas X is accused of lifting parts of a Bobby Caldwell song in a new lawsuit by a company called The Music Force.
Both the rapper and Sony, with whom Lil Nas just signed a record deal, are being sued for $US25 million.
The original video for Lil Nas X’s “Carry On” has since been deleted, but a few versions still exist on YouTube.
Carrie Underwood, the NFL, and NBC are being accused of ripping off a songwriting team for the “Sunday Night Football” theme song “Game On.”
Country singer Carrie Underwood, the NFL, and NBC are being sued by a singer and a group of songwriters for allegedly plagiarizing “Game On,” the theme song for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” program, the New York Post reported.
The lawsuit says that singer Heidi Merrill and her team of songwriters wrote a version of “Game On” in 2016, and posted a music video to YouTube after the song was included on a 2017 CBS broadcast of “Inside College Basketball.”
Lawyers for Merrill and her team say that they pitched their version of “Game On” to Underwood in August of 2017, but that the singer ultimately turned it down.
However, the lawsuit says that Underwood’s song “Game On” for the 2018 season of “Sunday Night Football” features a similar refrain and melody to the song Merrill and her team pitched Underwood previously – but doesn’t credit them.
The New York Posted reported that Underwood, the NFL, and NBC hadn’t yet responded to requests for comment on the case.
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” was accused of plagiarizing the Gap Band’s “Oops Upside Your Head” in 2018.
Though influenced by numerous funk songs from the ’70s and ’80s, “Uptown Funk” had to add additional writer credits in 2018 after The Gap Band filed a copyright claim. The band now earns a 17 per cent share of the publishing royalties.
The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” was lifted directly from Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Brian Wilson said.
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was listed as the sole writer of “Surfin’ USA” when it was released in 1963. Chuck Berry was later given writing credit and publishing royalties after pressure from his publisher.
The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” features a riff similar to one in the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.”
The Doors were ordered by a UK court to pay royalties to The Kinks for using a similar riff from “All Day and All of the Night” in “Hello, I Love You.”
Ray Davies of The Kinks told Rolling Stone that he didn’t want to sue, so they reached a deal.
Many people thought Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sounded similar to Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”
Similar riffs made people point out the closeness of the two songs, even though they were in different keys. Nirvana poked funat the comparisons during a 1992 show in Reading, England, by singing the chorus of “More Than a Feeling” before breaking into “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was accused of ripping off The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
A similar guitar riff in the chorus of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” caused people to say that Randy Bachman copied The Who, but The Who’s Pete Townshend was unfazed by the likeness.
In 2013, fans also noticed similarities between One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” and “Baba O’Riley.” The reaction of 1D fans resulted in Townshend releasing a statement that included a reference to Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
“The funniest thing is that in Canada this year I met with Randy Bachman, once the leader of The Guess Who, who told me that he not only copied ‘Baba O’Riley’ for [Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s] hit ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,’ but he even called his band after us. Why would I not be happy about this kind of tribute?” he said.
Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” caused them to be sued by Jake Holmes, who also wrote a song called “Dazed and Confused.”
Led Zeppelin has been involved in numerous copyright infringement cases. Jake Holmes sued Led Zeppelin in 2010 over his own “Dazed and Confused,” a song he had written and recorded two years before Led Zeppelin released their version. Holmes had opened for The Yardbirds in 1967, which featured Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. The case was settled out of court.
Led Zeppelin were sued again for their song “Whole Lotta Love,” which songwriter Willie Dixon felt was similar to his song “You Need Love.”
Another lawsuit Led Zeppelin faced was against their 1969 hit “Whole Lotta Love.” Willie Dixon sued the band for copyright infringement of his song “You Need Love,” which was recorded by Muddy Waters. The case was settled out of court and writing credit was given to Dixon.
But even before that, Dixon had sued in 1972 for another song he wrote. Dixon alleged that Led Zeppelin’s “Bring It on Home” took from “Bring It on Home” by Sonny Boy Williamson. It was also settled out of court and Dixon received writing credit.
Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was said to be a plagiarized version of the band Spirit’s song “Taurus.”
Led Zeppelin found itself with more litigation when Spirit bassist Mark Andes filed a suit against “Stairway to Heaven.” The case went to trial in 2016, but a jury found that the similarities were not copyright infringement. The verdict was appealed in March 2017.
John Fogerty was accused of plagiarizing himself with “The Old Man Down the Road” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through the Jungle.”
In a bizarre case, John Fogerty, the lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, was accused of plagiarizing himself. After the band disbanded, Fogerty pursued a solo career and released “The Old Man Down the Road.”
Fantasy Records, which owned the publishing rights to the band’s songs, tried to sue Fogerty for copyright infringement alleging that “Old Man” had the same chorus as “Run Through the Jungle.” A jury ruled that Fogerty did not infringe upon himself.
Radiohead’s “Creep” was the basis of a lawsuit that alleged the band plagiarized the Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe.”
Songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood successfully sued Radiohead for infringement.They are both listed as co-writers and split royalties with the band.
The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” lifted from the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.”
For their hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” The Verve sampled a symphonic recording of The Stones’ “The Last Time.” According to The Stones’ manager Allen Klein, they had only originally agreed to licence a five-note portion but exceeded the usage, thus voiding their agreement. Settling out of court, song credit went to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and The Verve lost all royalties.
Lana Del Rey claimed Radiohead’s lawyers were harassing her because “Get Free” and Radiohead’s “Creep” sounded similar.
Lana del Rey took to Twitter to claim that Radiohead was suing her and that the lawyers were “relentless.”
According to NME, Radiohead’s publishers denied any lawsuit and just said that the group wanted writing credit.
“To set the record straight, no lawsuit has been issued and Radiohead have not said they ‘will only accept 100%’ of the publishing of ‘Get Free,'” a statement read.
During a performance at Lollapalooza Brazil in March, the singer said the lawsuit was over.
Ed Sheeran was accused copying Matt Cardle’s song “Amazing” “note-for-note” in his hit single “Photograph.”
Songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard accused Sheeran of copying the song “Amazing,” which was sung by Matt Cardle. Their $US20 million copyright lawsuit alleged that Sheeran was guilty of “verbatim, note-for-note copying.” The case was privately settled.
Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Ed Sheeran were all involved in a lawsuit after singer Jasmine Rae sued them for copyright infringement.
Sean Carey and Beau Golden, who wrote Rae’s song, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Hill and McGraw. Sheeran, who helped write the song, was also named. According to TMZ, Sheeran called the accusations “baseless.”
Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” was said to be similar to Flourgon’s “We Run Things.”
Cyrus was slapped with a $US300 million copyright infringement lawsuit in March 2018 over her 2013 song “We Can’t Stop.” Jamaican songwriter Michael May, whose stage name is Flourgon,claims her song took “about 50 per cent” from his song. He also wants to stop future sales and performances of the song.
Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” apparently shared similarities with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
Tom Petty’s publishers contacted Smith after hearing similarities between the two songs, particularly during the chorus. They reached an out-of-court agreement to list Petty and Jeff Lynne as co-writers on the song.
Petty released a statement, saying, “All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen… Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement.”
Jon Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” was a reworking of Bonnie Tyler’s “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man).”
Desmond Child, who wrote Bonnie Tyler’s song, wasn’t pleased with how it performed on the charts and wanted to prove that the song could be a hit. After teaming up with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, the three reworked Tyler’s song into Bon Jovi’s first No. 1 hit.
Robin Thicke was accused of plagiarizing Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” with his hit “Blurred Lines.”
A jury found Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke liable for copyright infringement, and they had to pay the Gaye family $US7.4 million in damages. Williams and Thicke appealed the case in 2016, but the court sided with the Gaye family once again in 2018. The appeal confirmed that Gaye’s estate is entitled to 50% of all royalties from the song forever.
Kendrick Lamar’s “I Do This” allegedly lifted sections of Bill Withers’ “Don’t You Want to Stay.”
In April 2016, Lamar was sued for using a “direct and complete” copy of Bill Withers’ 1975 song as a sample. The case was filed in the same court that determined the outcome of the “Blurred Lines” trial.
“The musical composition ‘I Do This’ consists of nothing more than new, so-called Rap or Hip Hop lyrics, set to the existing music of ‘Don’t Want You to Stay,'” read the suit filed by Mattie Music Group.
Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” was accused of copying Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly.”
Guitarist Joe Satriani filed a lawsuit against Coldplay for copying “substantial original portions” of his 2004 song in 2008. But less than a year later, the case was ultimately dismissed and reportedly settled.
George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” was the subject of a lawsuit alleging the singer plagiarized the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.”
In one of the most notorious copyright infringement cases, George Harrison’s first solo single resulted in a guilty verdict for “subconscious plagiarism.” The judge wrote that he didn’t believe Harrison deliberately copied the music, but because he had access to it, he was guilty.
Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” took the bass line from Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.”
Vanilla Ice famously took the bass line from “Under Pressure,” a collaboration between Queen and David Bowie. When threatened with a suit, Vanilla Ice settled out of court. Bowie and Queen all got songwriting credits.
Rod Stewart admitted he unconsciously plagiarized Jorge Ben Jor’s “Taj Mahal” with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”
Brazilian musician Jorge Ben Jor filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Rod Stewart. Ben Jor has said the lawsuit was settled out of court and in his favour. Stewart later admitted to “unconscious plagiarism” of the song in his 2012 autobiography.
Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” theme allegedly lifted from Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want a New Drug.”
Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. for copyright infringement after the “Ghostbusters” theme was released. They reached an agreement in 1995. But in 2001, Parker sued Lewis for breaking a confidentiality agreement. They weren’t supposed to reveal information about the case after filing a joint press release in 1995, but Lewis commented on the case during an interview on VH1’s “Behind the Music.”
Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” bears a resemblance to Hank Williams’ “Move It on Over.”
Made famous by Bill Haley, “Rock Around the Clock” is considered to be one of the songs that made rock and roll popular in the 1950s, but some think it bears a striking resemblance to Hank Williams’ “Move It on Over” from the 1940s. But even Williams’ song borrowed from Charley Patton’s 1929 recording of “Going to Move to Alabama.”
2 Live Crew parodied Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” with their song “Pretty Woman,” but later got sued for it.
2 Live Crew released a parody of Orbison’s song and were sued for it. The case made it to the Supreme Court where it ruled in 2 Live Crew’s favour as “fair use.”
Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” is said to plagiarize Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
TMZ reported in June 2018 that Ed Sheeran is facing a $US100 million lawsuit alleging he copied Gaye’s “Let’s Get It Out.” It was filed byStructured Asset Sales, a company that owns one-third of the copyright to “Let’s Get It On.” Sheeran was sued back in 2016 over the same song by co-writer Ed Townsend.
On Thursday, January 3, US District Judge Louis Stanton said there were “substantial similarities” between Sheeran’s and Gaye’s song and determined that the case should go to a jury. A New York jury will later decide the case.
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