​Complaining Work

​Defending Work

Richard Morrill

“Who’s Got My Lightah”

Audio Recording

Gwen Stefani & Pharrell Williams

“Spark The Fire”

Audio Recording


Comment by Charles Cronin

How refreshing to read, in the Complaint (below), that Gwen Stefani frequents mainstream hair salons like Huntington Beach Beauty Supply, and Splash, in solidly middle class locations like Huntington Beach. Stefani’s misstep was not in slumming, but in being receptive to a pitch from the hairdresser styling her locks, who was also an aspiring pop musician. Her apparent receptivity, however, led to unfortunate developments for both parties.

It seems likely that Stefani did use, perhaps unconsciously, an idea, a turn of phrase, she had heard when Morrill played his recorded song for her over the salon’s sound system. When Morrill later heard a similar idea, or turn of phrase, in a song by Stefani, it was the fact that he had experienced, although fleetingly, personal communion with a star, that grounded his notion she had somehow betrayed, and taken advantage of him. In such cases, where there is typically minimal musical similarity between the works in question, plaintiffs, like Morrill here, assemble lists of commonplace musical elements taken willy-nilly from both songs, claiming protection based on their particular selection and arrangement of them.

Happily, Judge Dolly Gee gave short shrift (though her opinion is very thorough) to the flimsy support offered by the Plaintiff of verbal and musical similarities. Based on her own evaluation of the expert reports (and perhaps some basic musical knowledge of her own?) she determined the songs were not substantially similar in terms of “objective criteria” limned by experts, and therefore the case did not merit further consideration by a jury.



Complaint: PDF

Order Re. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment: PDF