Music’s next big copyright fight: Juice WRLD sued in $15m lawsuit filed by Blurred Lines lawyer

Richard Busch is back.

In the past few years, the Nashville-based lawyer represented the Marvin Gaye Estate in its successful copyright infringement case against the co-creators of Blurred Lines, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke – which ultimately led to an award of almost $5 million.

Last year, Busch represented Irish band The Script as they sued British star James Arthur, again for alleged copyright infringement, this time for Arthur’s worldwide hit, Say You Won’t Let Go.

More recently, Busch has represented Eminem’s publisher, Eight Mile Style, in a lawsuit against Spotify which alleges, yep, copyright infringement of hundreds of the rapper’s songs.

Now, Busch, a partner at King & Ballow Entertainment Law, has filed a $15m lawsuit against the creators and rightsholders of Juice Wrld’s 2018 global smash, Lucid Dreams.

The suit alleges that the track infringes the copyright of the 2006-released song, Holly Wood Died, by pop-punk band Yellowcard.

The new lawsuit claims that Lucid Dream’s authors – Juice Wrld (aka Jarad Higgins), Taz Taylor and Nick Mira – created their song by copying two other songs, Sting’s Shape of my Heart, and Yellowcard’s Holly Wood Died.

According to the filing from Yellowcard members Peter Mosley, Ryan Key, Sean Wellman-Mackin and Longineu Parson (the plaintiffs), the defendants – which include Juice Wrld, Taz Taylor, Interscope, Kobalt and others – licensed Sting’s work for Lucid Dreams, but  “decided to willfully infringe” Yellowcard’s song.

At the centre of the complaint is the claim that melodic elements in Lucid Dreams were ripped off from Holly Wood Died. Busch and co. provide a lengthy analysis of what they deem to be similarities between the vocal melodies in the two songs.

The filing (read it in full here), submitted by Busch yesterday (October 21), alleges that the vocals sound not “only substantially similar, but actually go beyond striking similarity in places, and are virtually identical” to a melody used in Holly Wood Died.

States the complaint: “The vocal melody found in the first verse of ‘Holly Wood Died’ and the vocal melody found in the first chorus of ‘Lucid Dreams’ go beyond substantial similarity.

“The vocal melody found in the first verse of ‘Holly Wood Died’ and the vocal melody found in the first chorus of ‘Lucid Dreams’ go beyond substantial similarity.”

Legal complaint filed by Richard Busch (pictured inset)

“The vocal melodies in question constitute essential identifying features of ‘Holly Wood Died’ in both qualitative and quantitative ways. This is especially important qualitatively as the melody shared between the two works constitutes each song’s distinctive recognizable ‘hook’.”

The document concludes that the “plaintiffs respectfully demand a jury trial on all issues raised in this complaint”.

As noted by the lawsuit, Lucid Dreams peaked at No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was on the chart for 46 weeks.

As of October 21, 2019, the music video for Lucid Dreams has attracted more than 381 million views on YouTube (see below) and more than 939m streams on Spotify.

The Juice Wrld lawsuit comes amid a backdrop of copyright infringement allegations against hit records: just last week, The New York Times reported that songwriters Justin and Jeremiah Raisen claim that they are owed a credit on Lizzo’s hit single Truth Hurts.

According to that article, the brothers say that they came up with the idea to include the line “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that Bitch” in a song during a writing session with Lizzo.

Truth Hurts’ official list of writers includes Lizzo, producers Ricky Reed and Tele, as well as Jesse Saint John, but not the Raisen brothers.

The New York Times also reported that the brothers revoked an earlier claim for credit via their publisher, Kobalt.

“The Raisens are not writers of Truth Hurts,” said Lizzo’s lawyer Cynthia S. Arato in a statement to NYT.

“They did not collaborate with Lizzo or anyone else to create this song, and they did not help write any of the material that they now seek to profit from, which is why they expressly renounced any claim to the work, in writing, months ago.”

“The old adage of ‘have a hit, see a writ’ has never been more true.”

senior US-based publishing figure, speaking to MBW

Back in August, a Los Angeles jury decided that Katy Perry’s 2013 hit Dark Horse sounds significantly enough like 2008 Christian Rap song Joyful Noise by rapper Flame (aka Marcus Gray).

Perry, her label Capitol Records and her other collaborators on the song (including songwriter/producers Max Martin and Dr. Luke) were ordered to pay Flame seven figure damages – the equivalent, found the jury, of 22.5% of Dark Horse’s profits to date.

Earlier this month, Perry, Capitol Records and her collaborators on Dark Horse filed an appeal against the judgment, calling the decision “a grave miscarriage of justice”.

A senior US-based publishing figure told MBW at the BMI Awards in London yesterday: “The old adage of ‘have a hit, see a writ’ has never been more true.”

Lucid Dreams was initially released by Juice Wrld over SoundCloud in summer 2017, before being given an official release by Interscope across platforms in May 2018.Music Business Worldwide

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