December 30, 2022 Musicology No Comments

Ed Sheeran is right to be annoyed by the number of copyright cases he has to face, and it’s true that the world of music copyright has shifted somewhat since the “Blurred Lines” verdict. But there are legitimate interesting cases out there, and there are some less advisable ones. And because nobody doesn’t love a list, here are Musicologize’s picks for the Five Worst Copyright Infringement Cases of 2022.

5. “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran

(More detailed coverage behind the headline links.)

Sheeran himself can have the five-slot. This was the case of “Shape of You” and “Oh Why,” by Sami Chokri. In short, the respective lyrics “Oh I, Oh I” and “Oh Why, Oh Why” are not identical, they’re both sung in equally spaced notes to an unoriginal and unprotectable minor pentatonic scale over different accompanying harmony (chords), and they’re rhythmically different, offset such that one zigs “oh” when the other zags “why,” or “I.”

Sheeran prevailed. And it was after this case that Sheeran reportedly talked about capturing his future songwriting sessions so he’d be able to use the videos as proof of originality and a shield from specious accusations.

And the other track is, I guess, age-restricted. Sorry.

4. “Levitating” by Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa and the rest of the creators of “Levitating” are involved in two completely separate cases for two completely separate works. The one that makes the list though is Wiggle And Giggle All Night by Cory Daye. The similarity is that both tracks have verses that are rapidly sung 16th note figures of four equally spaced notes are sung on a pitch, and the next four are one scale degree down, the next four again, and so forth. They’re still scales, which aren’t protectable, and they’re not even similar scales. “Wiggle” and its scale are in a major key while “Levitating” and its scale is in a minor key.

3. “Energy” by Beyoncé

This wasn’t actually a “case,” just a LOT of noise about how Beyoncé had interpolated “Milkshake” without getting permission or giving credit to Kelis. But there’s no reason she would have! Beyoncé credited The Neptunes who are the credited writers and own the rights to the composition. Furthermore, this could barely even be called an interpolation. There’s no lyric or melody from Milkshake. It’s just some “la la la’s.” Beyoncé shut it down by simply removing the element from the track a couple of days after the initial release.

2. “The Box” by Roddy Ricch

Ricch is being sued for infringing upon Greg Perry’s 1970’s hit “Come On Down,” by copying among other things the distinctive glissando that appears in the beginning of both works. But it’s not a sample, and the plaintiffs aren’t claiming it is. The claim is infringement of the composition. And the glissando is not protectable composition. It’s a Bb minor scale played swiftly such that it blurs into a glissando. Copyright does not protect scales. And although I looked, I don’t find other interesting similarities. 

1. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

This sucker was NOT shoehorned into the top slot just because it’s that time of year. It really does seem like the least explicable of the five. Vince Vance & The Valiants own “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is in rotation in my house this month, and it’s a cute song. I’ve always liked it. But it’s slightly less enjoyable this year because Vince, whose real name is Andy Stone, sued Mariah Carey for infringement. I prefer his song to hers! But this was silly. However hard I looked, I couldn’t find any similarities between the two songs apart from their titles. 

Written by Brian McBrearty