5 Famous Music Copyright Issues | CNN

Editor’s note: The documentary “Take On Taylor Swift” examines a copyright lawsuit filed against the singer over her hit song, “Shake it Off.” Produced by the CNN FlashDocs unit, the hour-long special premieres Friday, December 23 at 9 PM ET.


The music is supposed to calm this wild beast down, but it can also make some people angry.

Especially when it comes to copyright issues.

Throughout the history of the music industry, there have been incidents of artists being accused of ripping off other people’s work.

Taylor Swift has been embroiled in such a situation since 2017, when songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued her over her mega-hit single, Shake It Off. The duo have claimed Swift’s song contains similarities to their 2001 song, “Playas Gon’ Play”, which they wrote for girl group 3LW.

The suit was reportedly dismissed on December 12 at the request of attorneys for both sides, though no details of a settlement, if any, have been publicly disclosed.

Here are five other famous copyright cases:

In 2014, the late musician Randy’s California estate sued the surviving members of Led Zeppelin and their record label over the famous song “Stairway to Heaven.”

The copyright infringement case alleged that “Zeppelin” was taken from Spirit’s 1960s single “Taurus”, on which California served as lead guitarist.

The band members denied the claim. The case has woven its way through the legal system for years.

Two years ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict finding that “Stairway to Heaven” was not lifted from “Taurus.”

“There are zillions and billions of songs that have the same chord progression, so it was very unfortunate, and it was upsetting for everybody,” Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant said in 2021 while appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends.

Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke.

This legal dispute was hung over allegations that “Blurred Lines” was evocative of the late Marvin Gaye’s 1977 single “Got to Give It Up.”

Jay Robin’s estate accused Thicke and Pharrell Williams of copying the song’s “feel” for their 2013 song and was initially paid more than $7 million, but that ruling was later reduced to $5.3 million and the couple appealed.

In 2018, Jay’s family was awarded a final judgment of nearly $5 million against Thicke and Williams. Rapper T.I., who also appeared on the song, was found not responsible.

The legendary soul singer died in 1984 after being shot by his father, Marvin Gaye Sr. (the “e” was added to the family’s last name to create Gaye’s stage name).

Vanilla Ice 1990.

Rapper Vanilla Ice insisted that the intro to 1989’s “Ice Baby” was different enough from David Bowie and Queen’s 1981 “Under Pressure” not to be copied.

“I sampled it, but it’s not the same bass line,” the rapper said during an interview.

Lawyers for Bowie and the Queen did not buy it. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, in addition to Bowie and the Queen members receiving songwriting credit.

Bowie passed away in 2016 at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.

Biz Markie in 2017.

Biz Marky was known as a rapper who infused his music with a sense of humor, but one case was no laughing matter.

Biz Markie was sued by musician Gilbert O’Sullivan over “Alone Again,” a song that appeared on the rapper’s 1991 album, “I Need a Haircut.”

O’Sullivan claimed that the use of samples from O’Sullivan’s 1972 song, “Alone Again (Naturally)”, amounted to unauthorized use of his music.

The musician won, which led to hip-hop artists moving forward having to erase the use of samples in their music.

Still having some fun with it, Biz Marky called his 1993 album, “All Samples Cleared!”

He passed away at the age of 57 in 2021 after years of health problems.

Ed Sheeran in 2021.

Ed Sheeran has had a solid career in recent years, including being accused of plagiarism more than once.

He was sued in 2016 over his song “Photo,” a case that was eventually settled out of court.

Starting in the same year, the British singer-songwriter was the subject of multiple allegations regarding his song “Thinking Out Loud”.

But Sheeran scored a win recently when a London judge ruled that his 2017 hit song, “Shape of You,” didn’t copy punk artist Sami Switch’s hit, “Oh Why,” as Switch claimed.

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