In a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, a company called Melomega accused the stars of stealing the “core portion” of their hit song from a little-known 1980 song called “The First Time Baby Is A Holiday.”
“Defendants’ theft is impudently bold,” wrote Tre Lovell, Melomega’s lawyer. “One need only listen to ‘First Time’ and the infringing ‘10,000 Hours’ to discern the unmistakable similarities between the songs.”
Melomega said their claims against Bieber and Dan + Shay had been corroborated by a musicologist named Dr. Alexander Stewart, who analyzed the two songs and reached the “ineluctable conclusion that defendants stole plaintiff’s song.”
“’10,000 Hours’ is not just substantially similar to ‘First Time’; defendants copied, in minute detail, the most important, core portion of plaintiff’s song, which includes the chorus, verse and hook,” Melomega’s attorneys wrote. “The similarities are so striking that ‘10,000 Hours’ simply cannot have been independently created.”
Released in October 2019, “10,000 Hours” debuted at No. 4 on the Hot 100 and spent two weeks atop the Country Airplay chart. The track eventually won Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the 2021 Grammy Awards.
“The First Time Baby Is A Holiday,” meanwhile, was written by Palmer Rakes and Frank Fioravanti, the latter of whom later formed Melomega. It’s unclear when the song was first released, but the composition was registered at the U.S. Copyright Office in 1980. According to the lawsuit, the song was released in 2014 by Sony Music unit The Orchard.
Reps for Bieber and Dan + Shay (whose real names are Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney) did not immediately return requests for comment.
In making Thursday’s accusations, Melomega’s lawyers made a point to distinguish the new case from others in which “as few as 6 to 7 consecutive notes” were copied. That was perhaps a reference to recent high-profile lawsuits involving small snippets of songs, like an unsuccessful lawsuit against Katy Perry that claimed her Dark Horse ripped off an eight-note sequence from an earlier song.
“Here, in contrast, several 47-note sections of ‘10,000 Hours’ are virtually identical to parallel sections of ‘First Time’,” Melomega wrote. “Such a lengthy expression of largely identical musical composition is nothing less than strikingly similar.”
Though it offered a highly-detailed comparison of the two songs, the lawsuit devoted substantially less attention to explaining why Melomega believes that Bieber or Dan + Shay ever even heard “First Time” — a song that’s been played on Spotify just over 8,000 times since 2014. Without direct evidence of copying, that question (known as “access”) is a key legal requirement for any copyright lawsuit.
In two quick paragraphs, Melomega’s lawyers argued that the level of similarity between the two songs is so high that they don’t need to prove Bieber or Dan + Shay had access to the song. Or, alternatively, they argued that the song was distributed on all major streaming and download platforms, meaning it was widely available enough that it’s likely Bieber or Dan + Shay heard it.
The new case ‘10,000 Hours’ is one of several major song-theft copyright lawsuits filed over first few months of 2022. Dua Lipa is facing two such cases over her “Levitating,” and Sam Smith is facing a similar suit over his “Dancing With a Stranger.”
Listen to both songs:
Read the full complaint: