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Nickelback fight back in Rockstar song-theft case

By | Published on Tuesday 14 September 2021


Nickelback have filed new papers with the court in their ongoing song-theft legal battle with Kirk Johnston – vocalist with the band Snowblind Revival – who claims that their 2006 track ‘Rockstar’ ripped off his earlier song ‘Rock Star’.

Last month the band failed to get Johnston’s lawsuit dismissed, with the judge concluding that there were sufficient similarities between the two ‘Rockstar’ songs that a jury might conclude that copyright infringement had occurred. Assuming, that is, Johnston can back up his theory as to how Nickelback might have got their hands on a copy of ‘Rock Star’ before they began writing ‘Rockstar’.

The band filed an objection to that conclusion late last month and then last week submitted a more lengthy rebuttal of Johnston’s claims, responding to his lawsuit point by point.

In those recent submissions, the band state: “Plaintiff Kirk Johnston, a member of an obscure ‘alternative rock band’ called Snowblind Revival, alleges that he wrote a musical composition titled ‘Rock Star’ in 2001. In 2005, the Canadian rock band Nickelback released a song that was coincidentally titled ‘Rockstar’. Not surprisingly, both works touch upon the commonplace theme of imagining being a rock star. However, the two songs sound nothing alike”.

As for how Nickelback were exposed to ‘Rock Star’ before penning ‘Rockstar’, Johnston claims he showcased his song at meetings with various record company execs who could have passed it onto the band. But, say Nickelback: “He provides no details of those meetings, such as the names of the record label representatives with whom he allegedly met, where the meetings took place, or even when the meetings took place”.

In last week’s document the band deny each of Johnston’s claims against them in turn, except those relating to how successful their ‘Rockstar’ track was back in 2006. Along the way they repeatedly state: “Defendants specifically deny that they copied anything from plaintiff’s composition ‘Rock Star’, or infringed plaintiff’s alleged rights in any way whatsoever”.

It remains to be seen whether the band can get the case dismissed this time round or if the whole matter will progress to a full court hearing.

Although the judge declined to dismiss the case last month, she did remove one of the defendants, Live Nation, on the basis that it didn’t enter into it’s wider-ranging partnership with Nickelback – encompassing recordings as well as shows – until after ‘Rockstar’ was released.