Ed Sheeran, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are among the targets of a US copyright lawsuit launched by two Australians who claim their country song was ripped off.
The complaint was filed on Wednesday (Jan. 10) in New York federal court by ex-Thirsty Merc guitarist Sean Carey and keyboardist-producer Beau Golden, who say the McGraw/Hill work “The Rest of Our Life,” released through Arista Nashville in 2017, is “blatant copying” of their own 2014 piece “When I Found You,” performed by Jasmine Rae and released by ABC Records.
Sheeran, along with co-writers Johnny McDaid, Steve Mac (real name Steve McCutcheon) and Amy Wadge and their respective publishing firms were named. McGraw and Hill sing on the disputed track and are identified in the suit, as are industry heavyweights Sony/ATV, Universal Polygram, and others.
“The copying is, in many instances, verbatim, note-for-note copying of original elements of the song, and is obvious to the ordinary observer,” states the complaint.
Carey and Golden claim in their lawsuit that the two songs are musically, lyrically and thematically similar. Specifically, the lawsuit says, the songs are “substantially similar in bars 1-8 of both songs” and a detailed analysis of chord structure and melody are presented in the paperwork.
They’re seeking at least US$5 million in damages and for a permanent injunction blocking the use of the song.
A fan of Jasmine Rae alerted her to the similarities of the two tracks
The similarities between the two works were brought to the attention of Rae by way of a fan tweet, according to the suit. Soon after, its co-writers compared the songs.
“From the very first notes,” the suit reads, “it was immediately apparent to Mr. Carey and Mr. Golden that the similarities between the two works were far more than coincidental.”
The 35-page complaint has more twists and drama than a typical Hollywood script. Rae is in a relationship with Tim Holland, a marketing manager at Sony Music Australia, the suit says. According to the document, Holland told the plaintiffs that he frequently works with Sony Music Nashville and communicates with their offices as part of his job.
A conference call was allegedly conducted during which Holland admitted to knowing about the infringing song months in advance because “he was tasked with promoting and marketing the infringing song and infringing sound recording before its release,” states the complaint.
“When questioned by plaintiffs as to his silence about the similarities between ‘When I Found You’ and the infringing song/infringing sound recording, Mr. Holland stated he did not want to lose his job with Sony Music,” the suit claims.
“When pressed further by plaintiffs,” it adds, “Mr. Holland indicated that he had known that the songs were substantially similar for more than two months prior to the October 5, 2017 release date of the infringing song/infringing sound recording.”
Sony Music has declined to comment.
Sheeran is also brought into the bigger picture
The singer and songwriter has “substantial connections to Australia,” the suit explains, and “during the time when ‘When I Found You’ was enjoying its biggest success on the Australian airwaves,” Sheeran was “touring extensively” in Australia. “There are a plethora of additional ways in which the defendant writers could have heard ‘When I Found You’, not the least of which being the popularity of the Song on Spotify and YouTube,” the suit charges.
Holland is not named as a defendant in the suit, and Rae is not a plaintiff, though she and the plaintiffs are said to have enjoyed “excellent professional relationships and communication since the song’s creation.”
The similarity between the two songs ends when comparing their traction with music consumers. “The Rest of Our Life” has 9.6 million views on YouTube and more than 8 million streams on Spotify, while “When I Found You,” described on its release in 2015 as the “ultimate wedding song,” has more than 61,000 views on YouTube and 163,000 hits on Spotify.
The plaintiffs are represented by music industry attorney Richard Busch, partner in the Nashville-based firm King and Ballow. Busch successfully won the high-profile trial for the family of Marvin Gaye in the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit and challenged Sheeran in a $20 million copyright lawsuit over the song “Photograph,” which ended in a settlement where the plaintiffs gained a share of royalties and were credited as co-writers.
Compare the two songs below and read the lawsuit and more at The Hollywood Reporter.