Editor’s Note: The documentary “Taking On Taylor Swift” examines the copyright lawsuit against the singer for her hit song “Shake it Off.” Produced by the CNN FlashDocs unit, the hour-long special premieres Friday, December 23, at 9 p.m. ET.
Music is supposed to soothe the savage beast, but it can also get some people riled up.
Especially, when it comes to copyright cases.
Throughout the history of the music industry, there have been incidents of artists accused of ripping off the works of others.
Taylor Swift had been embroiled in such a case since 2017, when songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued her over her massive single, “Shake It Off.” The duo alleged that Swift’s hit contains similarities to their 2001 song, “Playas Gon’ Play,” which they wrote wrote for the girl group 3LW.
The suit was reportedly dismissed on December 12 at the request of attorneys for both sides, though no details of a settlement, if there is one, have been released publicly.
Here are five other famous copyright cases:
In 2014, a lawsuit was filed by the estate of the late musician Randy California against the surviving members of Led Zeppelin and their record label regarding the iconic ‘Stairway to Heaven” song.
The copyright infringement case alleged that the Zeppelin song was taken from the single, “Taurus,” by the 1960s band Spirit, for whom California had served as lead guitarist.
Members of the band denied the allegation. The case wove it’s way through the legal system for years.
Two years ago, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict that found that “Stairway to Heaven” had not been lifted from “Taurus.”
“There are zillions and zillions of songs that are carrying the same chord progression, so it was very unfortunate, and it was unpleasant for everybody,” Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant said in 2021 during an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s “Loose Ends.”
This legal dispute hung on allegations that “Blurred Lines” was evocative of the late Marvin Gaye’s 1977 single “Got to Give It Up.”
Gaye’s estate accused Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams of copying the “feel” of the song for their 2013 hit and were initially awarded more than $7 million, but that judgment was later reduced to $5.3 million and the pair appealed the verdict.
In 2018, Gaye’s family was awarded a final judgment of nearly $5 million against Thicke and Williams. Rapper T.I., who also appeared on the song, was found not liable.
The legendary soul singer had died in 1984 after being shot by his father, Marvin Gay Sr. (the “e” was added to the family last name to create Gaye’s stage name).
Rapper Vanilla Ice insisted that the intro to his 1989 hit, “Ice Ice Baby,” was different enough from David Bowie and Queen’s 1981 song, “Under Pressure,” as to not have been copied.
“I sampled it from them, but it’s not the same bass line,” the rapper said during an interview.
Attorney’s for Bowie and Queen didn’t buy it. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, plus Bowie and members of Queen received songwriting credit.
Bowie died in 2016 at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.
Biz Markie was known as the rapper who infused his music with humor, but one case was no laughing matter.
Musician Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Biz Markie over “Alone Again,” a song which appeared on the rapper’s 1991 album ,”I Need a Haircut.”
O’Sullivan claimed that the use of samples from O’Sullivan’s 1972 hit, “Alone Again (Naturally),” amounted to unauthorized use of his music.
The musician won, which resulted in hip-hop artists moving forward having to clear the use of samples in their music.
Biz Markie still had some fun with it, naming his 1993 album, “All Samples Cleared!”
He died at the age of 57 in 2021 after years of health issues.
Ed Sheeran has had a robust career in recent years, including being accused of plagiarism more than once.
He was sued in 2016 over his single “Photograph,” a case that was eventually settled out of court.
Beginning that same year, the British singer/songwriter was hit with multiple allegations over his hit, “Thinking Out Loud.”
But Sheeran recently notched a win when a London judge ruled that his 2017 hit song, “Shape of You,” did not copy grime artist Sami Switch’s song, “Oh Why,” as Switch had alleged.