10 Songs That Led To Massive Lawsuits

The lines are often blurred when it comes to defining music plagiarism.

Blurred Lines
Star Trak

Have you ever listened to a song and thought that it sounds a bit like another that you've heard before?

Musicians do that too, particularly when the song sounds like their own. A musical ear was one of the strengths that got them to the top and they use it to stay there, keenly listening out for any potential copycat renditions of their biggest hits.

While not every musician is sensitive to this form of flattery - Tom Petty, for example, brushed off a Red Hot Chill Peppers song resembling his own by stating that he didn't suspect negative intent - plenty are. After all, middling songwriters can land a huge payday when they enter a surprising squabble with a singer who sells out arenas.

You would be surprised to hear that your go-to karaoke picks can be themselves one step removed from karaoke. A few of the artists listed here are prolific when it comes to making hits out of songs that already exist in one form or another.

Juggernauts of the music industry are not shy to drag imitators to court either. There has been a boom in lawsuits related to music plagiarism in the last decade with the aggrieved seeking huge sums of money. Songs that usually echo in packed venues are played out in a tense judicial setting.

10. My Humps By Black Eyed Peas

A childish song about a woman using her body to get what she wants, My Humps was slammed by music critics for being immature. However, what had critics tutting packed out dancefloors. The third single from the Black Eyed Peas' fourth studio album Money Business, it was also one of their most successful songs.

The video landed them an MTV award and the song itself created an unexpected cultural domino effect. Blades of Glory, an absurd 2007 sports comedy about figure skating, featured a scene in which Will Ferrell's character Chad Michael Michaels demanded that he only skate to that song. His dialogue would later be sampled by Kanye West and Jay-Z for their 2011 song N*ggas in Paris.

My Humps actually sampled a 1983 song called I Need A Freak by a band called Sexual Harassment. The writer of that song, a DJ named Orrin Lynn Tolliver Jr, recorded the song at James McCant's studio and McCant later registered the song with BMI. The pair appeared to have agreed that Tolliver would get 75% of the song's royalties but then McCant denied this agreement existed and began selling the track for use. Despite Tolliver sending McCant a cease and desist letter, his former friend continued to make the track available for sampling to the likes of BEP.

With My Humps selling over two million copies, it was inevitable that this dispute would end up in court. Once there, McCant proceeded to contradict himself with a number of different stories. He initially denied issuing a licence before claiming that he co-wrote and owned I Need A Freak. Then, he tried to use a musicology expert's report to show that My Humps didn't use a sample at all. This didn't work. Tolliver was awarded $1.2 million in damages.


Jay Russell hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.