Man Files Copyright Lawsuit Against Nickelback Over “Rockstar”

According to Blabbermouth, a man named Kirk Johnston has filed a lawsuit against Nickelback, Roadrunner Records, Warner Chappell Music, Inc. and Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. Johnston made the move after claiming that the band’s song “Rockstar” was a rip off of his song “Rock Star,” which he wrote for Snowblind Revival in 2001.

Master recordings of Snowblind Revival’s “Rock Star” and three other songs were sent to various record labels, including Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, of which Roadrunner Records, Inc. and Warner Chappell Music, Inc. are wholly owned indirect subsidiaries. Johnston claims these labels gave Nickelback access to his track and that they plagiarized it.

Johnston says that “a substantial amount of the music in [Nickelback’s] ‘Rockstar’ is copied from [his] original composition ‘Rock Star’,” including “the tempo, song form, melodic structure, harmonic structures, and lyrical themes.” He is now seeking damages for copyright infringement and an injunction against further infringement.

Due to the evidence that was provided, Magistrate Judge Susan Hightower submitted a recommendation to Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas saying that Nickelback should face a copyright suit. She also added that the complaints against Live Nation should be dismissed. Hightower commented:

“Johnston has alleged facts sufficient to raise his right to relief above the speculative level, which is all that is required at the pleading stage.”

After listening to both songs, Hightower also said that it’s possible for a juror to see that the two pieces share protectable elements. However, it is still unclear if Johnston will be able to come up with enough evidence to prove that similarities are “substantial” or “striking,” considering Nickelback’s level of access.

For their part, Nickelback said that “the works at issue are not substantially similar to an ordinary observer.” They also added that the dissimilarities in the two songs cancel out Johnston’s copyright claim.

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