Calvin Harris is facing a copyright infringement lawsuit over “Slide” (2017), which two French musicians say borrows from their “How Is It Gonna Be” (2016) track.
The case’s plaintiffs, 39-year-old Mickael Zieben and 41-year-old Patrice Adekalom, reached out to Digital Music News with word of the million-dollar complaint, which is set “to be pleaded or struck out by judgment” in the Judicial Court of Paris on Wednesday, May 25th, French-language legal documents show.
Besides Dumfries, Scotland-born Calvin Harris, “Slide” featured artists Frank Ocean and Migos are named as defendants in the action; Ocean, Quavo, and Offset also have songwriting credits on the track. Sony Music Publishing France, UMPG’s Paris division, SMP’s EMI Music Publishing France, Migos’ Quality Control label, and Reservoir represent some of the suit’s other defendants.
After learning of the alleged infringement – the official upload of “Slide” has racked up over 155 million YouTube plays and is certified Platinum in France – Zieben and Adekalom “tried to amicably resolve the dispute,” according to a summons. Needless to say, this effort to settle the matter, including calls for songwriting credits on and revenue from the “flagrantly similar” Calvin Harris track, failed to produce a resolution.
“Feeling left behind without any recognition is very detrimental,” Zieben and Adekalom told us of the alleged infringement, which they indicated “completely ruined” their promotion plans. “What shocked us as well was the ‘How I made Slide’ video showing Calvin Harris as if he was pretending to play the introduction of ‘Slide’ on an upright piano.
“He hadn’t done anything like this before, as if he needed to escape his guilt with a self-justifying video. Since we noticed that, we decided that this fraud had to come to an end,” continued the plaintiff composers.
Now, the “How Is It Gonna Be” creators are demanding “up to $1 million” in damages, Zieben informed DMN, as well as a recall of “all compact discs, vinyl records, .MP3, .AAC, .OGG, .M4A, .WMA, .FLAC, [and] .WAV” formats containing the allegedly infringing track, per legal documents.
As in a number of stateside music industry copyright infringement battles – and notably the courtroom confrontation over Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” which appeared to conclude last month – the plaintiffs consulted musicologists in an attempt to prove their allegations.
The first of these musicologists, London’s Chandler & Siddell, found “striking similarities between the two” songs in a nine-page-long report dated March of 2019. And one Laurent Souques, “an expert recognised by the Court of Appeal of Paris,” identified all manner of perceived similarities (“the same process of dubbing a piano,” for instance) in a 30-page (French-language) analysis of his own, dated April of 2019.
From Ed Sheeran to Dua Lipa and The Weeknd to Nickelback, a multitude of well-known artists have faced copyright infringement lawsuits in the U.S. and/or the U.K. But comparatively few cases have made their way through different legal systems, and it’ll be worth monitoring the outcome of the “How Is It Gonna Be” complaint against Calvin Harris moving forward.
And for the individuals whose work was allegedly ripped off by one of today’s most popular DJs, the episode is indicative of a need for fundamental change (in the form of heightened pre-release copyright checks from the major labels) as well as additional respect for independent creators.
“We also hope that live recording composers and musicians like us will be treated with more recognition by the music industry. We also have music rights that are worth standing up for,” said Zieben and Adekalom. “Most people don’t see the behind the scenes of what a composer goes through to make the cut.
“Harris knows how it feels to be ripped off because he experienced this problem before, when he wasn’t even internationally renowned. Today he has to admit that he’s the one who stole a song from independent composers.”