Rock band Nickelback and its publisher Warner Chappell Music Inc. defeated a copyright lawsuit from a Texas singer who claimed that the band’s song “Rockstar” copied from his own song that came out four years earlier.
US District Judge
Plaintiffs must generally show that the defendant accessed the copyrighted work to advance an infringement claim.
Johnston sued the members of Nickelback and the music publisher in 2020, alleging that substantial portions of the harmonic structure and lyrical themes of “Rockstar” were copied from “Rock Star.”
The Nickelback song, released on the 2005 album “All the Right Reasons,” went on to become one of the band’s best selling songs, peaking on the Billboard 100 chart in 2007. Snowblind Revival released “Rock Star” in 2001, and Johnston claimed that he sent recordings to Nickelback’s music publishers that year.
But the magistrate judge found that Johnston’s argument about Nickelback’s access to the song through third parties was “purely speculative,” noting that the band members and music executives testified that they had never heard of Snowblind Revival.
The two songs also lacked “striking similarity,” and Johnston’s claim that the lyrics are similar “borders on the absurd,” the magistrate judge said.
Attorneys for both parties didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Jones Walker LLP and the Law Office of Sesha Kalapatapu represent Johnston. Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP and Kean Miller LLP represent Nickelback and Warner Chappell Music.
The case is Johnston v. Kroeger, W.D. Tex., No. 1:20-cv-00497, dismissed 3/16/23.
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