Nickelback ‘Rockstar’ Song Theft Lawsuit Moves Forward

Nickelback Rock Star
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Nickelback Rock Star
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Photo Credit: Thakingdome / CC by 3.0

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.


17 Responses

  1. Some Guy Named Joe

    First, there is nothing original about Snowblind Revival’s song. It’s one of the most bland, uninspired, and uncreative songs I’ve ever heard. Musically, the both start on an open G with a similar strumming pattern, then they both go to a C which is literally the most common chord to follow a G in the history of Western music. But that’s when the similarities end.

    The judge should have consulted with two stoners with acoustic guitars who flunked Music Theory I. They could have told her this is frivolous.

    • Sherri

      I would have to totally agree!!! The only similarity between the two that I heard, is the word “rockstar”!!

  2. BloodDemonWarrior2you

    Total BS!!! Two songs sound nothing alike to me. That judge is just a stupid b**** moving the case forward and not understanding the differences in the two songs. Drop the freaking lawsuit!! Leave Nickelback alone!!!

    • Sherri

      I agree with your statement as well. Nickelback is an awesome band and they should just leave them alone!!!

  3. JAS

    Hmmmm. Musically not really similar to my ears. I have played guitar since 1978.

    The coincidence of the idea of ‘Rock Star’ as a concept, pre-submitted by Kirk to companies that work closely with Nickle Back, means it is very possible that Chad and company heard and were inspired to write a more fleshed out song and call it ‘Rock Star’. Titles are not protectable.

    I am on the fence on wether there was an actionable offence, here. This may be a case of legally not infringement but morally a bit of a rip off.

    I don’t care for either version, but Kirk would really need to up his game if this is the demo he submitted.

  4. Gary Thompson

    He wished his song was half as good as nickelback’s. These two songs sound nothing alike the tune nor the lyrics.

  5. Jed

    worthless lawsuit

    I’m no fan of NB, but this is going nowhere fast.

  6. Sally Jones

    I have listened to both songs . Either songs sound the same, not in lyrics or music.. This judge clearly doesn’t know music. My opinion Nickelbacks is awesome. Snowblind Revival never heard of them.. their song frankly sucks.. This is a frivolous lawsuit against nickelback…

  7. Burt

    This all started with the Marvin Gaye lawsuit. The door is now open for anyone to sue regardless of common sense.

    Activist judges at work.

    • Jonah

      Say thanks to attorney David Pullman for this kind of indiscriminate, predatory legal action.

  8. Dean Hajas

    In publishing and copyright, similarities at all, plus proof of access is what the Law is upholding. Will the two songs make it passed Lawrence Ferrara…not bloody likely. Chad spends more one night at a strip club. Next.

    • Kellyann

      The 2 songs sound nothing alike. Dude had a boring song that never hit it with the same name as a NB song & thought hey let see if I can money for nothing. Dude needs to move on & the judge is batshit crazy if she thinks 12 ppl on a jury will will agree with her lmaooooo move along bc this is over b4 it even starts plus I’m sure NB had a group of lawyers just waiting & laughing lmao

  9. CVS Kroeger

    I watched both videos.

    I would say the Nickelback video looks much better.

  10. AZ metal

    What a waste of tax payer money. They sound nothing a like. Yet another activist judge wasting time and money

  11. Jeremy

    I am proud to like Nickleback. There—I said it. Give me a rainbow and a month of recognition for my defect.

  12. Thighmaster

    Chord progressions are not protected expression unless the voice leading is unique, that’s true. I noted some lyrical similarities here, tho. My guess is Kroeger and Co. decided to have a little fun with Johnston’s terrible song, and it turned into a monster.