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Nickelback fail to have song theft lawsuit dismissed

By | Published on Monday 16 August 2021


Nickelback have failed to have a song-theft lawsuit that was filed against them dismissed. However, the judge overseeing the case has recommended the removal of Live Nation as a co-defendant.

The judge said dismissal wasn’t justified at this point because it was “possible” that a jury would agree that there are sufficient similarities between the band’s song ‘Rockstar’ and an earlier song called ‘Rock Star’ to constitute copyright infringement.

Kirk Johnston, vocalist with the band Snowblind Revival, sued last year, claiming that Nickelback had ripped off his song when they wrote their ‘Rockstar’. As well as suing Nickelback, he also named as co-defendants music publisher Warner Chappell and live music giant Live Nation – which, you might remember, signed a mega-bucks deal with the band covered recordings and merch as well as touring all the way back in 2008, three years after ‘Rockstar’ was released.

In his lawsuit, Johnston alleges that Nickelback lifted significant portions of his song for their own. As for how they came to hear his track, Johnson claims that it was performed for executives at EMI, who were working with the band at the time and could therefore have made it available to them.

Whether Johnston can produce evidence to prove this claim is “yet to be determined”, said judge Susan Hightower. However, she went on, “these facts, taken as true, could have given the Nickelback defendants a reasonable opportunity to hear Johnston’s copyrighted work”.

She added: “Having listened to the works at issue, the court finds that it is possible for a reasonable juror to determine that the works share protectable elements”.

As a result, she declined to dismiss the case at this early stage. However, she said that Live Nation should be removed as a defendant because the company would have had no way of knowing that the Nickelback song infringed any copyrights.