Nearly every song is inspired by something before it, but a little too much inspiration can end you up in court.
Accusations of plagiarism and copyright infringement lawsuits are nothing new in music, with some major artists fighting a legal battle while others settle out of court.
Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were famously slapped with a guilty verdict and ordered to pay more than $7 million in a 2015 infringement case against the Gaye family, who alleged “Blurred Lines” ripped off Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” Thicke and Williams are appealing the verdict in what has been described as a possibly transformative case for music copyright.
Led Zeppelin, no stranger to litigation, has found itself embroiled in another case, this time alleging that their hit “Stairway to Heaven” mirrors Spirit’s “Taurus” from 1968.
But not every song that sounds like another goes to court.
In his book “Sounds Like Teen Spirit,” author Tim English examines rock and roll’s biggest plagiarism cases and analyzes the similarities between some of rock’s greatest hits.
Here are 18 more examples of songs that sound similar, including some that have faced lawsuits and others that haven’t:
Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and The Gap Band’s “Oops Upside Your Head”
Though influenced by numerous funk songs from the ’70s and ’80s, “Uptown Funk” had to add additional writer credits after The Gap Band filed a copyright claim. The band now earns a 17 percent share of the publishing royalties.
Kendrick Lamar’s “I Do This” and Bill Withers’ “Don’t You Want to Stay”
In April 2016, Lamar was sued for using a “direct and complete” copy of Bill Withers’ 1975 song. The case was filed in the same court that determined the outcome of the “Blurred Lines” trial.
Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”
Tom Petty’s publishers contacted Smith after hearing similarities between the two songs, particularly during the chorus. They reached an out-of-court agreement to list Petty and Jeff Lynne as cowriters on the song. Petty released a statement, saying, “All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen… Sam’s people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement.”
The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” and The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night”
The Doors were ordered by a UK court to pay royalties to The Kinks for using a similar riff from “All Day and All of the Night” in “Hello, I Love You.”
Jon Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” and Bonnie Tyler’s “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)”
Desmond Child, who wrote Bonnie Tyler’s song, wasn’t pleased with how it performed on the charts and wanted to prove that the song could be a hit. After teaming up with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, the three reworked Tyler’s song into Bon Jovi’s first No. 1 hit.
Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and Joe Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”
Guitarist Joe Satriani filed a lawsuit against Coldplay for copying “substantial original portions” of his 2004 song in 2008, but less than a year later, the case was ultimately settled.
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”
Similar riffs made people point out the closeness of the two songs, even though they were in different keys. Nirvana poked fun at the comparisons during a 1992 show in Reading, England, by singing the chorus of “More Than a Feeling” before breaking into “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine”
In one of the most notorious copyright infringement cases, George Harrison’s first solo single resulted in a guilty verdict for “subconscious plagiarism.” The judge wrote that he didn’t believe Harrison deliberately copied the music, but because he had access to it, he was guilty.
Hank Williams’ “Move It on Over” and Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock”
Made famous by Bill Haley, “Rock Around the Clock” is considered to be one of the songs that made rock and roll popular in the 1950s, but it bears a striking resemblance to Hank Williams’ “Move It on Over” from the 1940s. But even Williams’ song borrowed from Charley Patton’s 1929 recording of “Going to Move to Alabama.”
Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” and The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”
A similar guitar riff in the chorus of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” caused people to say that Randy Bachman copied The Who, but The Who’s Pete Townshend was unfazed by the likeness. In a 2013 statement about the similarities between One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” and “Baba O’Reilly,” Townshend mentioned that Bachman told him that he did copy the song. “Why would I not be happy about this kind of tribute?” he asked.
Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” and Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused”
Jake Holmes sued Led Zeppelin in 2010 over his own “Dazed and Confused,” a song he had written and recorded two years before Led Zeppelin released their version. Holmes had opened for The Yardbirds in 1967, which featured Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. The case was settled out of court.
Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and Jorge Ben Jor’s “Taj Mahal”
Jorge Ben Jor filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Rod Stewart. The lawsuit was settled and Stewart later admitted to “unconscious plagiarism” of the song in his 2012 autobiography.
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through the Jungle” and John Fogerty’s “The Old Man Down the Road”
In a bizarre case, John Fogerty, the lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, was accused of plagiarizing himself. After the band disbanded, Fogerty pursued a solo career and released “The Old Man Down the Road.” Fantasy Records, which owned the publishing rights to the band’s songs, tried to sue Fogerty for copyright infringement. A jury ruled that Fogerty did not infringe upon himself.
Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” theme and Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want a New Drug”
Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. for copyright infringement after the “Ghostbusters” theme was released. They reached an agreement in 1995, but in 2001, Parker sued Lewis for breaking a confidentiality agreement. They weren’t supposed to reveal information about the case after filing a joint press release in 1995, but Lewis commented on the case during an interview on VH1’s “Behind the Music.”
Kelly Clarkson’s “All I Ever Wanted” and Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On”
Fans pointed out the similar bass lines in the two songs, but the difference was enough to keep the songs from going against each other in court. Clarkson’s “All I Ever Wanted” was a cover of a 2008 Aranda song.
The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” and Radiohead’s “Creep”
The Hollies’ Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood are now listed as cowriters on Radiohead’s “Creep” after they successfully sued the band for infringement.
Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA”
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was listed as the sole writer of “Surfin’ USA” when it was released in 1963. Chuck Berry was later given writing credit and publishing royalties after pressure from his publisher. In 2015, Wilson told the Los Angeles Times, “I just took ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ and rewrote it into something of our own.”
Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Muddy Waters’ “You Need Love”
Another lawsuit Led Zeppelin faced was against their 1969 hit “Whole Lotta Love.” Willie Dixon’s estate sued the band for copyright infringement of Dixon’s “You Need Love,” which was recorded by Muddy Waters. The case was also settled out of court and writing credit was given to Dixon.