A lawsuit over the Nickelback song “Rockstar” can move forward, the judge decides.
The judge presiding over the case refused to dismiss the lawsuit because a jury may determine there are significant similarities between the two songs. Kirk Johnston, the vocalist for a band called Snowblind Revival, filed the lawsuit last year.
He claims that Nickelback ripped off his song “Rock Star” when writing their own song of the same name. In addition to suing Nickelback, Johnston also named Warner Chappell and live music conglomerate Live Nation as co-defendants. Live Nation signed a deal with the band three years after “Rockstar” was released in 2008.
In the original lawsuit, Johnston claims several portions of the song are lifted from his own. He says his version of the song was performed for executives at EMI, who was working with Nickelback at the time. Johnston claims his material could have been made available to Nickelback.
“In August 2001, Snowblind Revival created a master recording of Rock Star, along with three other original songs,” the lawsuit reads. “The band made fifteen copies of the master recording and sent them to several record labels, including Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, of which Defendants Roadrunner Records Inc. and Warner Chappell Music, Inc. are wholly-owned indirect subsidiaries.”
“Chad Kroeger, Michael Kroeger, Ryan Peake, and Daniel Adair are members of the band Nickelback, which is signed to Roadrunner Records. Plaintiff alleges that the Nickelback Defendants had direct access to Johnston’s musical composition Rock Star as a result of Snowblind Revival’s marketing efforts.”
Judge Susan Hightower seemed to agree, with the caveat that it’s unclear if Johnston can prove his claim. “Having listened to the works at issue, the court finds that it is possible for a reasonable juror to determine that the works share protectable elements,” her ruling reads.
Judge Hightower refused to dismiss the Nickelback “Rockstar” lawsuit because the two songs may share protectable elements.
While the judge declined to dismiss the case, she did recommend removing Live Nation as a co-defendant. Judge Hightower says the company would have had no way to know that the Nickelback song infringed any copyrights when it signed an agreement in 2008 with the band.
Nickelback argues that the two works are “not substantially similar to an ordinary observer.” But it seems as though the judge disagrees, and the case will move forward.