James Arthur's 'Say You Won't Let Go' Sued for Copyright Infringement by The Script
The former 'X Factor' winner's 2016 comeback single is too similar to The Script's "The Man Who Can't Be Moved," according to attorney Richard Busch's filing on behalf of the British band.
The attorney who represented Marvin Gaye's estate in its successful lawsuit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over the song "Blurred Lines" has filed a similar suit against British singer James Arthur, arguing his hit "Say You Won't Let Go" infringes on the copyright of The Script's "The Man Who Can't Be Moved."
Richard Busch from firm King and Ballow filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday (May 21), arguing the Arthur has generated $20 million from the song, which he says rips off a 2008 song written by The Script's Daniel O'Donoghue, Mark Sheehan, Andrew Frampton and Stephen Kipner. The suit also names "Say You Won't Let Go" co-writers Neil Ormandy and Steve Solomon as co-defendants, along with Sony/ATV Publishing, Sony Music, Columbia Records, Ultra International Music Publishing, Third Verse Music Publishing and Kobalt Music Publishing.
Since "Say You Won't Let Go" first debuted in 2016, fans have often noted its similarities with "The Man Who Can't Be Moved." Both songs share the same 4/4 meter, have a similar tempo, four-bar guitar introduction and use similar vocal melodies and harmonic structures.
In his civil complaint, Busch argues that Arthur copied "The Man Who Can Not Be Moved" almost a decade after its release with "Say You Won't Let Go," which was a comeback for Arthur, who won The X Factor in 2012 but saw his career stall out after a string of bizarre incidents where he made lewd and homophobic comments.
“It’s widely known Mr. Arthur was dropped by his record label for public controversies, which caused a break in his career. It wasn’t until the release of ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ that he achieved worldwide success," Busch said in a statement to Billboard.
"Say You Won't Let Go" was a big hit, spending 52 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, with 845 million streams on Spotify and 650 million plays on Youtube to date. According to the suit, Arthur allegedly approached members of The Script about collaborating on a project together in 2014 and was turned down by the band. Busch alleges that Arthur then copied "the essence" of "The Man Who Can Not Be Moved."
Busch made a similar argument in the landmark 2013 case against Williams and Thicke, arguing their song "Blurred Lines" mimicked and ultimately infringed on Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up.” A jury agreed and earlier this year, the ruling was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in a $5.3 million payout for the Gaye family and half of the royalties for the song.
Critics have warned the ruling could hurt the creative process and lead to similar lawsuits against artists who draw inspiration from others. In 2016, Jennifer Hudson, John Oates of Hall & Oates, Linkin Park and 200 other artists filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit, arguing in part, “[Artists] are concerned about the potential adverse impact on their own creativity, on the creativity of future artists, and on the music industry in general, if the judgment, in this case, is allowed to stand.”
According to the lawsuit filed against Arthur, "Say You Won't Let Go" was composed during a writing session in Los Angeles, with co-writer Ormandy telling Songwriter Universe in 2017, "We came up with the idea and concept very quickly. I think we actually wrote the song in like three hours."
The release of "Say You Won't Let Go' led to almost immediate comparisons with "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" with The Sun reporting that "James and The Script are both signed to the same management company, James Grant, which could prove awkward if they do end up in court.”
Busch is asking the court for a jury trial and to rule that Arthur infringed on The Script's song and is asking for an accounting of all streaming, distribution, publishing and touring revenue connected to the song and is seeking statutory damages over the track. Billboard reached to representatives for Arthur and did not receive a response by press time.