Diddy pays Sting $5K a day for song: 11 tunes hit by copyright claim including Ed Sheeran and Lady Gaga songs

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Some of these cases have been settled and resulted in payouts of millions of pounds, whilst others have been dismissed

Every year, millions of new songs are written, recorded and released. The tunes which are sung by famous singers will then be heard millions of times all across the world. While many songs quickly find fans who love to play them repeatedly, there are times when not everyone is pleased with a popular song because they believe the tune sounds too much like one they have created themselves. When this happens, singers or producers can find themselves at the centre of copyright claims.

Rapper Sean Love Combs, who goes by the stage name of Diddy, P.Diddy or Puff Daddy, took to Twitter in April to reveal that he pays fellow musician Sting $5,000 (just over £4,000) a day for using the song Every Breath You Take, which was a hit for Sting’s band The Police, for his own song I’ll be Missing You. Diddy seemed to be okay with this arrangement, however, as he said he had ‘love’ for his ‘brother’.

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Diddy is not the only high profile musician who has found himself on the receiving end of a copyright claim. Here, we take a look at 11 other singers and music creators who have also had to answer to copyright infringement claims. Some of them were won and some of them were dismissed. Read on to find out all the details.

Ed Sheeran - Shape of You

Sheeran and the co-writers of his 2017 hit Shape of You, John McDaid and Steven McCutheon, had to go through an 11-day trial last year when they were accused of plagiarising the song Oh Why by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue. Sheeran denied the accusation and won the High Court battle in April 2022. In a video released after a judge dismissed claims against him, the singer said: “There’s only so many notes and very few chords in pop music, coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year - and there’s only 12 notes that are available.”

Radiohead - Creep

Radiohead had to give song writers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood credit as co-writers for their hit 1993 song Creep after it was discovered that it sounded similar to their 1972 song Air That I Breathe, which was covered by The Hollies in 1974. It seemed they managed to reach an amicable agreement, however, after Radiohead admitted being influenced by Hammond and Hazelwood’s song. Hammond said: "Radiohead agreed that they had actually taken it. Because they were honest they weren't sued to the point of saying 'we want the whole thing'. So we ended up just getting a little piece of it."

In 2018, Radiohead then sought co-writing credits from singer Lana Del Rey for her 2017 song Get Free, claiming that she had plagiarised Creep for the track. The lawsuit was eventually dropped.

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The Weeknd - Call Out My Name

In March, singer The Weeknd reached an out of court settlement with two singers, Suniel Fox and Henry Strange, who claimed the star had copied their song Vibeking to create his 2018 song Call Out My Name. The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, denied the allegation and details of the settlement have not been released.

Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines

Back in 2013, one of the biggest songs of the summer was Blurred Lines by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke. The family of late singer Marvin Gaye, however, felt that the song sounded like his 1977 tune Got To Give It Up. They took the case to court, and judges agreed with them. The judge ruled that Williams and Thicke must pay half of the song’s royalties to Gaye’s family and they also had to give them a one-off payment of $5.3m (£4m) in damages. Pharrell reflected on the case in 2019 in an interview with GQ and said he would “never take anything from anyone”

Katy Perry - Dark Horse

Katy Perry was told in March 2022 that she would no longer have to pay $2.8m (£2.1m) to a rapper who had been alleging for the previous eight years that she had stolen his song on her hit Dark Horse. Marcus Gray sued Perry in 2014, and said she had plagiarised his track Joyful Noise. A jury originally agreed with him and awarded him the $2.8m payout, but the decision was later overturned by a judge and the appeals court also upheld the judge’s ruling.

Many song creators have been hit by copyright claims, including P.Diddy, Ed Sheeran, Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.Many song creators have been hit by copyright claims, including P.Diddy, Ed Sheeran, Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
Many song creators have been hit by copyright claims, including P.Diddy, Ed Sheeran, Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. | NationalWorld/Kim Mogg

Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven

Led Zeppelin were at the centre of a six year copyright infringement battle over their iconic song Stairway to Heaven between 2014 and 2020. Another group, Spirit, claimed that Led Zep had copied the opening riff of their signature song from their own track, Taurus. Spirit claimed that Led Zep lead singer, Robert Plant, had heard the song when he attended one of their concerts back in 1970. Led Zeppelin won the original trial in 2016, but there was an appeal case in 2018. In early 2020, however, the appeals court upheld the original verdict.

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Lady Gaga - Shallow

Fans of Lady Gaga will know the song Shallow, which she sang in 2018 film A Star in Born with Bradley Cooper. The following year singer-songwriter Steve Ronsen accused the singer of stealing part of the tune from his 2012 song Almost. Gaga denied these claims. It’s not clear how the claim was resolved, but Ronsen is not listed as a co-creator of Shallow.

The Rolling Stones - Living in a Ghost Town

Rockers The Rolling Stones are currently being sued for copyright infringement over their 2020 hit single Living In A Ghost Town by songwriter Sergio Garcia Fernandez, who performs using the stage name Angelslang. Fernandez alleged that the legendary band’s 2020 track had taken elements from two of his songs, So Sorry, released in 2006, and Seed Of God, released in 2007. He claims that he gave a CD of his music containing the two tracks to an immediate family member of Mick Jagger. Rolling Stones have not publicly commented on the claim.

Sam Smith - Stay With Me

Sam Smith reportedly gave 25% of all royalties from his 2014 song Stay with Me to fellow musicians Tom Petty just months after it was released. This is because the song sounds similar to Petty’s 1989 track I Won’t Back Down. Shortly after the agreement was reached, Smith said: “It was a complete accident. I am 22 years old… I’ve never listened to that song.”

Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby

Rapper Vanilla Ice lifted Queen and David Bowie's legendary guitar riff from their 1981 collaboration Under Pressure as the bassline for his own huge hit Ice Ice Baby. Ice had added an extra note, but it still sounded remarkably similar and so he later had to pay Queen and Bowie around £2.8m. According to Rolling Stone, the case is a landmark one as it "sparked discussion about the punitive actions taken in plagiarism cases".

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Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk

Uptown Funk might have been a huge song in the mid 2010s, but it was also the cause of four copyright claims. Two years after the release of their hit 2014 track Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars were sued for copyright infringement by a funk band Collage, who claimed that the tune sounded very similar to their 1983 track Young Girls. According to TMZ, both sides agreed to drop the claim in 2018, and it is not known if any kind of settlement was agreed upon. 

The 1970s trip The Sequence also sued the pair as they believed the track was too similar to their 1979 song Funk You Up. Meanwhile, Lastrada Entertainment, who own the rights to Roger and Zapp’s 1980 song ‘More Bounce To The Ounce’, also filed a lawsuit and claimed the song was also a copy of theirs. It is understood that these claims were settled or dismissed.

The heirs of Gap Band members Robert and Ronnie Wilson, who died in 2020 and 2021 respectively, also sued BMG Rights Management in Manhattan federal court in 2023, as they claimed the music publisher has not been paying royalties for their credits on Mars and Ronson's song. They alleged that BMG breached a contract that entitled the heirs to part of the composition copyright in Uptown Funk, which includes elements of the Gap Band's 1979 song I Don't Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops Upside Your Head).

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