​Complaining Work

​Defending Work

Alisa Apps

“Need to Know”

Audio Recording

John Newman

“Love Me Again”

Audio Recording


Comment by Charles Cronin

Like many recent music copyright infringement claims, this one is based on the fact that the defendant’s work, like the plaintiff’s, includes a repeated commonplace verbal phrase — in this case “I Need to Know”. The complaint (linked below) goes on at some length about a few tenuous, and ultimately professionally unfruitful, contacts the plaintiff had with successful pop musicians like Shawn Carter (“Jay-Z”). Presumably this is an attempt to establish both the plaintiff’s credibility as a player in the pop music industry, and also the possibility that the defendant may have heard plaintiff’s song before creating his own. Apart from a sweeping allegation that the defendant “copied the words, music, and melody of certain portions of Ms. Apps’ song” the complaint provides no evidence whatever to support this claim. From a quick comparison of the audio recordings of the two songs it is apparent that the only commonality between the songs is the phrase “I Need to Know” opening of the “chorus” with a predictable durational stress on the first word (“I”).

On March 14, 2019, the 9th Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to the Defendants (both decisions below) finding the Plaintiff failed to establish any basis for her claim of substantial similarity of musical expression. Even if the disputed works sounded similar (they do not) that similarity does not support a claim for musical similarity. As the Court patiently points out, the Copyright Statute protects against only the literal copying of a sound recording, and not against independently produced recordings, even if they “imitate or simulate” the sounds of the earlier recording.


Complaint: PDF

District Court’s Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment: PDF

9th Circuit Court’s Memorandum Affirming District Court’s Judgment: PDF