Gwen Stefani and Pharrell sued for copyright infringement over “Spark the Fire” song

Recently, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell, among other Defendants, (“Defendants”) were sued for copyright infringement over the song “Spark the Fire.”[1] The lawsuit was brought by musician Richard Morrill (“Plaintiff”) who is a songwriter and singer that was formerly part of a band called L.A.P.D.[2] The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants’ song “Spark the Fire” is substantially similar to Plaintiff’s “Who’s Got My Lightah” song.[3] The Plaintiff alleges that the most significant similarities between the two songs involve musical and lyrical similarities in the choruses of the songs.[4] The Plaintiff also asserts that he is the owner of copyrights in the songs “Who’s Got My Lightah” and “Who’s Got My Lighter”, which were allegedly registered in October, 2016.[5] The Defendants are alleged to have had access to Plaintiff’s songs as a result of Plaintiff and Gwen Stefani meeting at a beauty supply store and a salon that the Plaintiff worked at in 1997 and 1998.[6] Plaintiff alleges that Gwen Stefani obtained a copy of a CD containing Plaintiff’s songs at this time.[7]

The Complaint alleges claims for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement and for Civil Theft.[8] Further, Plaintiff is seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.[9] In order to show infringement the Plaintiff will need to establish substantial similarity between the two songs. In addition, the Plaintiff’s vicarious and contributory infringement claims seek to hold one or more of the Defendants who were not direct infringers liable. Plaintiff’s vicarious infringement claim requires a showing that one or more of the Defendants 1) had the right and ability to control the direct infringer’s acts; and 2) received a direct financial benefit from the infringement. The Plaintiff’s contributory infringement claim requires a showing that one or more of the Defendants 1) had knowledge of the infringement; and 2) induced, caused or materially contributed to the infringement.

We will be monitoring the status of this case. Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding the information in this article.

Daniel Devine, Esq.
Santucci Priore, P.L.

[1] See, Morrill v. Stefani, et. al., Case No. 17-cv-00123 at Docket Entry No. 1 (D. Col. Jan. 12, 2017).
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.

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