Mega-selling singers Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City‘s Adam Young as well as several publishing companies and performing rights groups are being sued in a new copyright infringement lawsuit filed in California federal court.
The claims come from Allyson Nichole Burnett, an Alabama-based singer and songwriter who authored the 2010 song, “Ah, It’s a Love Song.”
In Burnett’s lawsuit, she says that Young, Matt Thiessen and Brian Lee have copied a prominent motif of her song to create the pop hit “Good Time,” released by Owl City and Jepsen in June. The disputed song reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was also played repeatedly during NBC’s broadcast of the 2012 Summer Olympics, according to reports, in shows like “90210,” “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” and in trailer ads for the film “Hotel Transylvania.”
Jepsen is best known for her chart-topping summer smash “Call Me Maybe,” while Owl City’s “Fireflies” hit the No. 1 spot in late 2009.
Song theft lawsuits are on the rise, but this one, authored by THR power lawyer Neville Johnson, is filled with details about musicology and contains other idiosyncrasies.
According to the complaint, the hook in Burnett’s song is a “unique vocal motif” that is repeated throughout the song and “has a catchy pop vibe that both draws people in and sticks in people’s heads.”
The song, on Burnett’s album “The Takeover,” has been on sale in record stores and on digital outlets since 2010 and the lawsuit says it has also been licensed to MTV for the shows “The Hills” and “Friendzone.”
According to the complaint, “Defendants’ extensive access to ‘Love Song’ is sufficient to trigger the ‘inverse ration rule,’ whereby a reduced standard of proof of substantial similarity is required when a high degree of access is shown. However, the substantial similarity between the Original Motif and the Copied Motif… is striking under any standard of proof.”
The lawsuit then gets granular with respect to the alleged similarities of the two songs.
Burnett’s song is in the key of F while “Good Time” is in the key of E flat, but other shared features are noted, including an identical pitch sequence (5-3-5-3-2), melodic contour (down, up, down, down), rhythmic construction (8th rest, 8th note, 8th note, 8th note, 8th note, 8th rest, quarter note), timbre (textless vocals) and so forth.
Here’s a copy of the complaint. The two songs can be heard below.
Burnett, who sometimes performs as Ally “Cupcake” Burnett, is alleging copyright infringement and playing up the alleged damage suffered. She says in her complaint that “many consumers may incorrectly assume that Burnett copied her own Original Motif from the Infringing Songwriters due to the widespread popularity and publication of ‘Good Time.’ Burnett’s reputation as an independent artist will be significantly damaged by such incorrect assumptions.”
Further, Burnett says she has “suffered emotional and psychological damage” from fans asking why she copied the Jepsen-Owl City hit, although there isn’t any specific cause of action pinned to her distress.
Besides the musicians named above, Universal Music Group, Songs Music Publishing and Schoolboy Records are named as defendants.
Somewhat unusually, the lawsuit also drags ASCAP and SESAC, two entitities that collect performance royalties, into the dispute.
“Plaintiff is entitled to a constructive trust over all profits and royalties collected and held by the Royalty Distributors,” says the lawsuit. “Alternatively, the Royalty Distributors should be required to interplead all profits and royalties collected and held by them into the registry of this Court.”
Reps for Jepsen and Young haven’t responded to requests for comment.