The writers of the 2019 hit song, according to the plaintiffs, copied wholesale from a “lost soul gem.”
LOS ANGELES (CN) — Country music duo Dan + Shay and Canadian pop star Justin Bieber face a lawsuit accusing them of ripping off a 1980 soul ballad for their Grammy winning 2019 hit song “10,000 hours.”
Melomega Music said in a complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles federal court that core portions of “10,000 hours” were lifted from “The First Time Baby is a Holiday,” a song composed more than 40 years ago and most recently released in 2014.
“One need only listen to ‘First Time’ and the infringing ‘10,000 Hours’ to discern the unmistakable similarities between the songs,” the company says in its complaint. “However, subjective analysis aside, when the songs are viewed through the objective, empirical lens of musical science — as was done in this case by one of the top musicology experts in the industry — defendants’ infringement is unmistakable.”
The complaint provides a link to a YouTube video of “The First Time Baby,” which appeared on a collection of “lost soul gems” released by Sound Gems, an affiliate of Melomega Music. Sound Gems Records was set up in the early 1970s by Palmer Rakes and Frank Fioravanti, who wrote the song.
Copyright infringement lawsuits by authors of often obscure works against the creators of mega hits aren’t unusual, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in recent years has been siding with established artists defending these cases. Both Led Zeppelin and Katy Perry, to the relief of the music industry, have prevailed in cases where the specific musical elements they were accused of infringing simply weren’t original or creative enough to merit copyright protection.
The copyright owners of “The First Time Baby” may hope to fare better. In the complaint they allege that the hooks of the songs are exactly the same and that both end with the identical lyric “for the rest of my life,” set to the same melody.
“This identical similarity can’t be overstated,” Melomega says in its complaint. “The fact that both songs exhibit the exact same lyrics, pitch, rhythm, contours and metric placement at exactly the same moment in each song simply can’t happen without copying.”
The lawsuit was filed by Tre Lovell of the Lovell Firm in Los Angeles. Melomega seeks an injunction against further purported infringement of its copyright as well as damages, including profits from “10,000 hours.”
Representatives of Warner Music Group, whose Warner Nashville label released “10,000 hours,” didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Dan + Shay-Justin Bieber collaboration was released shortly after Bieber’s wedding to model Hailey Baldwin in October 2019. The song was the highest-charting, non-holiday country song on Billboard’s streaming chart, and it won a Grammy Award for the best country duo or group performance in 2021.
The official music video of “10,000 hours” has been viewed about 235 million times on YouTube.
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