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British songwriters sue The Weeknd in new song-theft case

By | Published on Thursday 4 April 2019

The Weeknd

Three British songwriters have sued The Weeknd in another fun song-theft legal battle that began in the Colchester branch of Topman. As all good song-theft legal battles should.

Brian Clover, Scott McCulloch and Billy Smith accuse The Weeknd – real name Abel Tesfaye – of ripping off their song ‘I Need To Love’ on his track ‘A Lonely Night’, which appears on the 2016 album ‘Starboy’.

According to the three men’s lawsuit, they wrote their song in 2004 and 2005. Around about that time they did a deal with the publishing wing of London management company Big Life, which then started pitching three of their works, including ‘I Need To Love’, to artists and labels.

The original Big Life Music songs business was then bought by Universal Music Publishing in 2008. Eight years on, Universal told the trio that, as their songs hadn’t been picked up by any artists, it was relinquishing its control of the three works.

Two weeks later the recordings side of Universal Music released ‘Starboy’, which enjoyed global success, topping the US album charts. ‘A Lonely Night’ was track twelve on that LP, credited to Tesfaye and a bunch of his songwriting buddies.

The ‘I Need To Love’ writers only became aware of ‘A Lonely Night’ when Clover heard it playing in the aforementioned Colchester branch of Topman. Clover “instantly knew that the song he was hearing was in fact the trio’s ‘I Need To Love'”, says the lawsuit.

How similar are the two songs? Substantially similar? Yes, reckons the legal filing. But not just “substantially similar”, they’re also “strikingly similar”. Imagine that!

And, of course, the trio have one of those musicologists that always pop up in disputes like this one backing up their claims. His name is Alexander Stewart, and he says: “My preliminary investigation and analysis has revealed substantial similarities between these two songs”.

He goes on: “Subjectively, I believe these similarities are so clear as to be obvious even to a casual listener … These similarities amount to, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the most important musical expression in both works. In my opinion, based on the level of detail in which these similarities are found, these similarities could only result from copying”.

The lawsuit has been filed in California, with Clover, McCulloch and Smith arguing they are entitled to “a declaration of ownership and authorship in ‘A Lonely Night’, and actual damages, direct profits, and indirect profits from the exploitation of the song”.

So that’s fun, isn’t it? Here is the customary YouTube mash-up of the two tracks: