Nickelback Pushes Back Against ‘Rockstar’ Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Following Dismissal Attempt

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

About two weeks back, Nickelback doubled down on its attempt to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit centering on “Rockstar.” But this far-reaching effort to end the courtroom confrontation doesn’t appear to have been successful, for the Alberta-based rock group has now filed a point-by-point refutation of the action.

The copyright infringement legal battle kicked off last year, when one Kirk Johnston, the lead singer for a rock band named Snowblind Revival, submitted the suit to a federal court in his band’s native Texas. Nickelback’s 2005 hit “Rockstar,” Johnston said, had been ripped off his group’s 2001 “Rock Star” effort, which the act allegedly presented “to a broad variety of labels.”

“The general feedback from the executives from these labels was very positive about the band,” the original lawsuit stated, “but most particularly about Johnston’s composition Rock Star.” Building upon this feedback, Snowblind Revival sent tracks including “Rock Star” to the major labels on CD, according to the complaint, with Nickelback allegedly gaining “direct access” to the song as a result.

Furthermore, a “substantial” amount of the music in the older of the two tracks made its way onto Nickelback’s “Rockstar,” the plaintiff alleged, including large “portions of the tempo, song form, melodic structure, harmonic structures, and lyrical themes.” As an aside, the long-running “7 Rings” copyright infringement lawsuit against Ariana Grande – in which plaintiff Josh Stone said that he’d played his “You Need It I Got It” track for Universal Music Group execs including longtime Grande collaborator Thomas Brown – concluded in June.

Back to the dispute between Nickelback and Johnston, however, the former party didn’t mince words when attempting to dismiss the case, bluntly stating that “the two songs sound nothing alike.”

Additionally, the defendants alleged that the plaintiff had failed to disclose the details of his purported meetings with record-label higher-ups, “such as the names of the record label representatives with whom he allegedly met, where the meetings took place, or even when the meetings took place.” More immediately, the defendants likewise claimed that Johnston hadn’t established how his song “could have ended up in the hands of the individual members of Nickelback.”

Despite these and similar statements disputing the validity of the plaintiff’s allegations, though, the case appears poised to proceed, and Nickelback as well as co-defendants including Warner Music Group and Live Nation have pushed back against the plaintiff’s individual claims, a new response reveals.

Concurring with the basic elements of the lawsuit – those pertaining to Nickelback’s lineup, the location of Atlantic Records, and other such details – the defendants proceed to refute each of the claims involving the purported infringement of “Rock Star.” “Defendants specifically deny that they copied anything from Plaintiff’s composition Rock Star, or infringed Plaintiff’s alleged rights in any way whatsoever,” the document reads in part.

Lastly, Nickelback outlines 14 affirmative defenses against the copyright infringement lawsuit, which allegedly “fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a claim for relief.” Perhaps the most notable of these affirmative defenses regards the copyright-ownership specifics of “Rock Star,” for Johnston “does not own a copyright in” the track or this “purported copyright is invalid and/or unenforceable.” Moreover, “the elements” of the older song allegedly exist “in prior art or are in the public domain, and thus cannot give rise to a copyright claim.”

More as this develops.