Juice WRLD (née Jarad A. Higgins) has been sued by members of the now-disbanded rock group Yellowcard for copyright infringement over his breakthrough single “Lucid Dreams.”
According to a complaint filed Monday (Oct. 21) in U.S. District Court in California, former Yellowcard members William Ryan Key, Peter Michael Mosely, Longineu Warren Parsons and Sean Michael Wellman-Mackin allege Juice WLRD and his collaborators copied “melodic elements” from their 2006 song “Holly Wood Died” for the rapper’s blockbuster 2018 single without permission. They’re asking for damages in excess of $15 million and a “running royalty and/or ownership share” on all future exploitations related to the song or, alternatively, statutory damages “for each act of copyright infringement” and for defendants to be “permanently enjoined” from exploiting “Lucid Dreams” in the future.
Moreover, plaintiffs claim that in addition to recording revenue, they are owed damages from Juice WRLD’s concert tours and other public appearances given that the “overwhelming success” of “Lucid Dreams” launched the rapper’s career and provided him “substantial opportunities to tour and perform around the world.”
A representative for Juice WRLD could not be reached at the time of publishing.
In addition to Juice WRLD, co-named defendants include “Lucid Dreams” co-writer Taz Taylor (a.k.a. Danny Lee Snodgress Jr.), along with his publishers Taz Taylor Beats, Artist 101 Publishing Group and publishing administrator Kobalt Music Services; producer Nicholas Mira, along with his publishers Nick Mira Publishing, Electric Feel Music and publishing administrator Songs of Universal; “Lucid Dreams” publisher BMG Rights Management; record label Grade A Productions; and Grade A’s parent company, Interscope Records.
“Defendants copied the Original Work without license or consent, and have exploited the subsequent Infringing Work and Infringing Sound Recording to their collective benefit without regard to Plaintiffs’ rights and to Plaintiffs’ detriment,” the complaint reads. “The Infringing Work and Infringing Sound Recording directly misappropriates quantitatively and qualitatively important portions of Plaintiffs’ Original Work in a manner that is easily recognizable to the ordinary observer. The Infringing Work and Infringing Sound Recording are not only substantially similar to the Original Work, but in some places virtually identical.”
In establishing substantial similarity, the complaint includes a chart analyzing the two compositions and notes a number of common elements including hooks, vocal melodies and a distinctive “melodic idiosyncrasy” known as a melisma, which the plaintiffs claim appears in a “parallel position” in both songs. “The high degree of objective similarity between the Original Work and the Infringing Work extends well beyond the possibility of coincidence and could only reasonably be the result of an act of copying,” it concludes.
Yellowcard’s attorney, Richard Busch, issued a statement about the lawsuit in which he explained, “This was not a lawsuit the guys wanted to file. They put all of the parties on notice a long while ago and gave them every opportunity to try to resolve it. That notice was pretty much ignored leaving them with no real choice. As alleged in the Complaint, this is not just a generic Emo Rap song, but is
To establish access — another key criteria for copyright infringement cases — the complaint goes on to highlight several links between Juice WRLD and the music of Yellowcard. Most prominently, it notes that the rapper has expressed his appreciation for the subgenre known as “emo pop rock” — “the precise genre of Yellowcard’s music” — in various interviews, including one in which he is quoted saying he “listened to and educated himself in Emo pop rock music” in order to impress a girl he had a crush on in the fifth grade. The complaint goes on to note that the 20-year-old rapper would have been in the fifth grade in 2006 — the very year “Holly Wood Dies” was released as part of Yellowcard’s Gold-certified album Lights and Sounds.
The complaint additionally highlights Juice WRLD’s publicly-stated admiration for the band Fall Out Boy and specifically their 2005 album From Under the Cork Tree, which was released only a few months prior to Lights and Sounds and shared a producer — Neal Avron — with that album. “Since it is very common for a fan of works produced for an artist by a specific producer to listen to other works by that same producer,” the complaint reads, “it is likely that Defendant Juice WRLD’s appreciation for the album From Under the Cork Tree led to exposure to Yellowcard’s album Lights and Sounds and the Original Work ‘Holly Wood Died.'”
The final link established in the access portion of the complaint comes from recent press coverage of Juice WRLD as a progenitor of the hip-hop subgenre known as “emo rap,” including one article that identified the rapper as an “Emo rap ambassador.”
“Lucid Dreams” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has racked up more than 1.6 billion on-demand streams in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music, and been certified 5x multi-platinum by the RIAA.
Yellowcard announced they were disbanding in June 2016. The band played their final show in March 2017.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with a statement from the attorney for Yellowcard.