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Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You latest subject of song theft lawsuit

By | Published on Monday 6 June 2022

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey has been sued over her classic festive hit ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, which, musician Vince Vance now argues, infringes the copyright in a song he wrote of the same name.

According to Vance’s lawsuit, filed last week, he co-wrote a song called ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ back in 1989, a version of which was recorded and released, enjoying “extensive airplay” in 1993. Carey’s album ‘Merry Christmas’ – on which her song ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ appears – was then released by Sony label Columbia in 1994. The latter track was co-written by Carey and producer Walter Afanasieff.

Carey’s song – Vance’s lawsuit claims – was basically a derivative work based on his song. But Carey and Afanasieff never got permission to adapt his earlier work in that way. Therefore they are infringing his copyright in the earlier song, as well as misappropriating his work by claiming they wrote the 1994 hit.

Lawsuits of this kind usually have a section that explains how the creators of the later work would have had access to the earlier work, and then another section outlining just how similar the two songs are. But there’s none of that in this litigation, beyond the claim that Vance’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ enjoyed plenty of airplay in 1993 and got itself into the Billboard music charts.

As for the similarities between the two songs, well, that’s basically the title and accompanying lyric, so I guess there wasn’t much to say on that point in the legal filing. Other than that there are lots of other songs called ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, but noting that wouldn’t do much for Vance’s case.

There’s also no explanation as to why it took Vance so long to sue over Carey’s hit which is, after all, one of the most famous Christmas pop songs. Of course, popular Christmas songs have become all the more lucrative in the streaming age – with lots of extra digital income alongside radio royalties each December – though that’s hardly a new development either.

According to the lawsuit, Vance first contacted Team Carey regarding his copyright claims in relation to her Christmas hit last year. “Plaintiff’s counsel initially made contact with defendants in April of 2021 regarding the unauthorised use of the song”, it notes.

“Thereafter”, it adds, “plaintiff’s counsel sent a letter via certified mail on or about December 20, 2021, regarding the unauthorised use of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, thereby putting them on notice that the creation a derivative work, without authorisation and payment to plaintiff, represents a violation of plaintiff’s rights”.

“Even after communicating the concerns with defendants”, it goes on, “plaintiff was unable to come to any agreement over usage of the ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’”.

“Subsequently, plaintiff personally requested that defendants cease and desist from further distribution of plaintiff’s work. Despite plaintiff’s request, defendants continue to exploit plaintiff’s work ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, reaping tremendous financial awards and other pecuniary benefits to the detriment of plaintiff”.

“Upon information and belief”, it then states, “such unlawful activities by the defendants constitute wilful infringements of plaintiff’s copyright, and upon information and belief, were committed in disregard of plaintiff’s rights”.

Reps for Carey, Afanasieff and Sony are yet to respond.

And now, to get yourself in festive mood, you can listen to both songs side by side. Here’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’:

And ‘here’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’: