[Smt-talk] Music Plagiarism Cases

Rob Bennett rob.bennett at okcu.edu
Fri Dec 18 07:06:07 PST 2009

In the 1980s, Huey Lewis and the News brought suit against Ray Parker, 
Jr., over the prominent doubly-plagal riff shared by Lewis' "I Want a 
New Drug" and Parker's slightly later "Ghostbusters." It is my 
understanding that the two parties settled with an NDA in the mid-1990s. 
I've also heard that Parker sued Lewis for breaching the NDA in speaking 
with VH-1 a few years later.

This case is particularly interesting, since it concerns what might be 
considered more of a very brief short harmonic-motivic element, as 
opposed to a melody or sound recording. I could be wrong, but I believe 
this means that the contentious one-measure fragment would normally not 
be eligible for protection under US copyright law.

Rob Bennett
Oklahoma City University

Richard Lewis wrote:
> Dear SMT,
> This question may be better directed at law scholars, but a colleague
> is interested in finding cases of music plagiarism which have been
> heard in court (in any country, but English or German proceedings will
> be easiest to read). Anyone know of any?
> Best,
> Richard

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