Many feel all great artists get their inspiration from other great artists but there’s a thin line between using someone’s song as a muse and outright ripping them off. These 15 musicians have been accused of stealing another artist’s music.
R&B singer Alicia Keys took a break from making music to start a family. Returning to the scene with a brand new image and a new album, the New York native lit up the charts with her single “Girl On Fire.” Too bad the song that helped re-launched her career would lead her right into a courtroom. Songwriter Eric Shurman has accused the “Foolish” singer of using his 1962 song “Hey There Lonely Girl” that was used by Eddie Harmon for her hit song. Last December Shuman filed a lawsuit against Keys, who is now a girl getting sued.
After going on an indefinite break from the Black Eyed Peas, group frontman Will.i.am embarked on a solo career and began producing hits for some of pop music’s biggest stars. Earlier this year, UK singer Tulisa filed a lawsuit against Will.i.am accusing him of swiping some of her lyrics for his smash collaboration with Britney Spears “Scream and Shout.” Will.i.am has admitted that he received the song from the original producer, who didn’t want the track to go to Tulisa. A big hit over in Europe, “Scream and Shout” sold over two million copies. Tulisa is hoping a court ruling will help her get a piece of the sales.
Canadian singer Avril Lavigne signed her first record deal at the age of 15. Since then, she’s gone on to sell more than 50 million records worldwide but with more money comes more problems. In 2007, the Rubinoos sued Lavigne and her record label for copyright infringement claiming her song “Girlfriend” was a rip off of the 1979 song “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” The lawsuit was settled the following year for an undisclosed amount. Lavigne’s rep released a statement saying any similarities between the two songs were purely coincidental.
Chris Brown has certainly earned his now infamous bad boy reputation. His previous domestic altercation with then-girlfriend Rihanna and numerous traffic fender benders have landed him in a courtroom but so have the singer’s tracks. UK dance artist Calvin Harris accused Brown of lifting parts of his song “I’m Not Alone” for Brown’s hit “Yeah 3x” and filed a lawsuit. Brown initially claimed he had never heard of Harris but after listening to “I’m Not Alone,” Harris received writing credit for Brown’s song.
Lady Gaga is currently one of the biggest pop stars on the planet and though she has paid homage to Madonna for paving the way for her and other pop artists to follow, the two divas have been subliminally firing shots off at each other for some time now. Lady Gaga was accused of ripping off “Born This Way” from Madonna’s 1989 hit “Express Yourself.” The “Like A Virgin” singer has even addressed the controversy in an interview, saying “When I heard it on the radio, I said that sounds very familiar. It felt reductive.”
By the time R&B singer Usher dropped his fourth album in 2004, he was an international superstar. Confessions sold over 10 million copies with the help of the popular song “Burn,” but the song also led Usher and producer Jermaine Dupri to court. Singer Ernest Lee Straughter claimed Usher’s song was a rip off of his 1998 “Reasons” and filed a lawsuit in 2008. Earlier this year, Straughter led a protest to the judge’s settlement offer of $500,000, a far cry from the $20 million he was originally seeking.
Declaring she kissed a girl and she liked it in 2008, Katy Perry started her domination in the pop world. Releasing three albums so far, Perry’s upcoming Prism is receiving the wrong kind of attention. Music lovers noticed a similarity between Perry’s lead single “Roar” and Sara Bareillie’s “Brave.” While many expected Bareille to confront Perry or file a lawsuit, she isn’t bothered by the similarities because Bareille tweeted, “All love, everyone. All love.” Perry most recently took to the stage under the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the 2013 MTV VMAs closing ceremonies.
Robin Thicke has been compared to late legend Marvin Gaye before and although his “Blurred Lines” song is the summer’s anthem for many people, the popular song has been scrutinized for its striking similarities to one of Gaye’s songs. Trying to stay one step ahead of the game, Thicke recently filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against Gaye’s estate saying his song is not a stolen copy of the late singer’s “Got To Give It Up.” Gaye’s family reportedly turned down a six-figure settlement from Thicke and is preparing to file a lawsuit of their own.
British singer Jessie J had a few hits under her belt in her home country but it was her fifth single “Domino” that put her on the map here in the U.S. Although the song upped her international star power, the song is also causing a headache for Jessie J. American singer Will Loomis claims the song bears a striking resemblance to his own song “Bright Red Chords” that he released with his band in 2009. Determined to have his day in court, Loomis has filed a lawsuit against Jessie J and a ruling in the case is pending.
An international star before she became a sensation in the U.S., singer Shakira released the mega smash hit “Hips Don’t Lie” in 2006. Featuring former Fugees member Wyclef Jean, “Hips Don’t Lie” was an instant success and the video won “Best Choreography” at the 2006 MTV VMAs. However, not everyone was a fan of the song. Popular salsa singer Jerry Rivera accused Shakira of pilfering the horn progression from his song “Amore Como el Nuestro.” Rivera opted not to sue but his name is listed in the credits for the song on Shakira’s album Oral Fixation Vol 2.
Rapper 50 Cent has certainly proved that his hustler’s mentality has helped him “get money.” From humble beginnings, the Queens born rapper has ventured into clothing, movies and energy drinks. However, the “In Da Club” rapper was accused of copyright infringement for his popular song “I Get Money” after an Atlanta rapper stepped forward. Caliber, real name Tyronne Simmons, claimed he was the lawful owner of the instrumental because he had already purchased the exclusive rights. His lawsuit was eventually thrown out after the three-year statute of limitations passed.
Part of Madonna’s massive success is due to her uncanny ability to start a firestorm with her music. In 1990, the pop diva’s controversial song “Justify My Love” ruffled the feathers of rap group Public Enemy. The New York based clan claimed her song used the instrumental from their song “Security of the First World.” Although they never filed a lawsuit, poet Ingrid Chavez sued Lenny Kravitz, producer and co-writer of the song, for stealing the lyrics from her poem. The lawsuit was settled out of court and Chavez eventually received songwriting credit.
She may never, ever be getting back together with her ex but Taylor Swift may be headed to a courtroom. The country darling is accused of lifting the lyrics of Matt Nathanson’s 2003 song “I Saw.” The alleged line is: “And I’ll forget about you long enough to forget why I need to.” Found on her Red album, Swift’s song contains the line: “And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to.” Nathonson recently called Swift a thief on twitter but has yet to file a lawsuit.
Having been in the industry since a teen, the pressures of being a superstar and living life in the public eye finally got to Britney Spears and she had a very public meltdown in 2007. After taking a hiatus to work on her personal issues, Spears returned to the music scene with new music and a new attitude. However, the “Oops… I Did It Again” singer was once again the subject of controversy in 2011 after country group the Bellamy Brothers accused Spears of stealing their song title, “If I Said You had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?” They claimed Spears’ shortened “Hold It Against Me” title was inspired by their 1979 hit. However, the group has declined to seek legal action.
Leona Lewis got her start in the music business by winning the third season of the UK’s “The X Factor.” In 2011, another UK artist accused the British singer of plagiarism. DJ Avicil came forward to say Lewis’ song “Collide” boosted the instrumental from his song “Penguin.” A spokesperson for Avicil’s record label released a statement: “Leona Lewis has stolen our record. ‘Collide’ is identical to Avicii’s track. We’ve been working on this release for a year, then this week we heard Leona’s track. Obviously Avicii is pretty upset about this.” However a rep for Lewis disputes the claim of thievery, claiming the DJ is properly credited on the track.