Music copyright infringements fall into three different categories; Decided, Settled and cases In the media. To view cases on our website select from the list below or filter by category.
1963 • Decided • England and Wales
Claimant Work: In A Little Spanish Town
Defendant Work: Why
A significant case in UK music copyright law was brought by music publishers Francis Day & Hunter (hereafter FDH). It was the first time that plagiarism of an original musical work had been considered, and the law reports provide a valuable amount of interesting detail on the musical issues considered by the courts. FDH jointly owned the copyright of the song In A Little Spanish Town (hereafter Spanish Town), with Leo Feist Inc. Spanish Town was written in 1926 by Mabel Wayne, with lyrics by Samuel Lewis and Joseph Young.
1970 • Decided • England and Wales
Claimant Work: Sogno Nostalgico
Defendant Work: Girl In The Dark
A case for plagiarism was brought by production music library Mood Music against one of its competitors De Wolfe Music. Mood Music sent a letter to De Wolfe in March 1967, objecting to their release of the track Girl In The Dark, composed by Jack Trombey (one of the pseudonyms used by Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart). Mood Music contested that Girl infringed the copyright in their track Sogno Nostalgico by the Italian composer Armando Sciascia, the rights to which they had acquired in 1964.
1987 • Decided • England and Wales
Claimant Work: Martha
Defendant Work: Seems Like Yesterday
1970s pop artist David Dundas faced an action from Warner, the UK publisher for American singer-songwriter Tom Waits. Warner sought an injunction to restrain any further showings of a television commercial, which they felt infringed the copyright of the Tom Waits song Martha, of which they owned the copyright.
1986 • Decided • England and Wales
Claimant Work: There Is Nothin' Like A Dame
Defendant Work: You've Just Got To Meet Elaine
Williamson Music, the copyright owners of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific, obtained an injunction against advertising agency The Pearson Partnership Ltd, who had been commissioned by National Express Limited to create a television commercial for their Rapide service. The words to the commercial were created by Pearson staff and given to composer Denis King to set to music.
1934 • Decided • England and Wales
Claimant Work: Colonel Bogey
A case was brought in 1934 by Hawkes & Son, publisher of the march Colonel Bogey, written in 1914 by Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts (using his pseudonym Kenneth J. Alford). Paramount Film Service had included a section of the march in a film of the opening of Holbrook School in Suffolk in 1933, without first having obtained a licence from the publisher.
1923 • Decided • England and Wales
Claimant Work: Polly
Defendant Work: Polly
The first 20th century infringement case concerns an arrangement of the same public domain material by two separate musicians. Polly was an opera written by librettist John Gay and composer Johann Christoph Pepusch in 1728 and published by subscription in 1729, but never performed until later that century as it was censored. It was re-edited and revised by author Clifford Bax (who considerably rewrote the libretto) and composer Frederic Austin and premiered in London in 1922, with Austin rearranging and extending the original tunes used in the original opera.
1983 • Decided • England and Wales
Claimant Work: Chariots of Fire
Defendant Work: Title unknown
In 1983, Warner Brothers Music appealed for an injunction against composer Graham de Wilde and his publisher, the production music library KPM Music Limited, along with Clarks the shoe manufacturer and the advertising agency CDPP. Warner was the exclusive UK sub-publisher of the successful 1981 film soundtrack music to Chariots of Fire, written by the composer known as Vangelis. CDPP was commissioned by Clarks to produce a television commercial. CDPP had the idea of showing children running along a beach, at their own admission emulating the scene from the film Chariots of Fire. CDPP commissioned KPM to produce accompanying music in the style of Chariots of Fire.
2023 • Decided • US District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)
Claimant Work: Let's Get It On
Defendant Work: Thinking Out Loud
A case was brought in 2016 against Ed Sheeran, his publisher and record label, for allegedly copying Marvin Gaye classic Let's Get It On in his song Thinking Out Loud.
2015 • Decided • USA, 9th Circuit, California
Claimant Work: Got To Give It Up
Defendant Work: Blurred Lines
More column inches have been given to the Blurred Lines case than any other. It is the most high-profile claim to be considered in recent times and involves two globally successful songs which were recorded 35 years apart. It has divided opinion more than most cases. Many disagree with the US court findings. Most significantly it considers whether a musical style, rather than individual song elements, such as melody and lyrics, can be protected by copyright.
1987 • Decided • UK
Claimant Work: I Menexedenia Politieia (Theme to "The City Of Violets")
Defendant Work: Chariots of Fire
In what has become known as the "Chariots of Fire" case, EMI brought a claim of infringement of copyright against the composer Evangelos Papathanasiou (known professionally as Vangelis), his publisher Spheric BV, Amsterdam, and his record labels Warner Brothers US, and Warner Brothers UK. They accused Vangelis of deliberate or subconscious copying of their work I Menexedenia Politieia by Stavros Logarides, which had been used as the theme music to the 1975 Greek television series The City of Violets. Vangelis’ music to Chariots of Fire was composed in 1981.