Mariah Carey attends the premiere of Tyler Perry’s “A Fall From Grace” at Metrograph on January 13, 2020 in New York City (Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Andy Stone – a musician who performs under the name Vince Vance – is arguing that Mariah Carey’s song infringes copyright on his own 1989 song of the same name. Stone is suing Carey for $20m (or £16m).
Here’s everything you need to know about Andy Stone’s lawsuit against Mariah Carey.
Why is Mariah Carey being sued over All I Want for Christmas is You?
Mariah Carey’s song All I Want for Christmas is You – co-written with Walter Afanasieff, who is also named in Andy Stone’s lawsuit – was released in 1994 on Carey’s album Merry Christmas. It’s since gone on to become one of the most popular Christmas songs worldwide, and is reported to have earned Carey over £48m in royalties.
Andy Stone is arguing, however, that by writing a song with the same name as one of his own Carey exploited his “popularity [and] style” to achieve this success.
Stone’s legal complaint argues that Carey, Afanasieff, and record label Sony Music Entertainment received “underserved profits” from the song. He goes on to suggest that they “knowingly, wilfully, and intentionally engaged in a campaign” to infringe copyright.
How much is she being sued for?
Stone is claiming $20m (or £16m) in damages. The complaint – which reveals that his lawyers first contacted the defendants last year – hinges on Stone’s insistence that he never gave permission for his song to be used for “the creation of a derivative work”.
Who is Andy Stone?
Andy Stone is a singer/songwriter himself, performing professionally under the name Vince Vance. He’s the lead (and only permanent member) of the band Vince Vance and the Valiants, who were behind the song All I Want for Christmas in You in 1989.
All I Want for Christmas is You is Vince Vance and the Valiants most successful song, having charted on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts on six separate occasions in the 1990s. Notably, however, only the first of those six occasions (in early 1994) occurred before Mariah Carey’s song was released, and it’s been suggested that confusion with Carey’s song contributed to five of the six times the song charted.
Otherwise, the band’s most successful song – the only other to chart – is Bomb Iran, a 1980 parody of the 1961 song by The Regents.
What does Andy Stone’s version of All I Want for Christmas is You sound like?
Despite the shared title, Stone and Carey’s versions of All I Want for Christmas is You don’t sound particularly alike. You can listen to both versions here and make up your own mind.
Music critic Joel Whitburn wrote in 2004 that Stone’s version of All I Want for Christmas is itself based on the melody from another song – Bobby Vinton’s My Heart Only Belongs To You – with only minor alterations.
How many songs called All I Want for Christmas is You are there?
It’s perhaps notable that Carey and Stone are far from the only people with songs called All I Want for Christmas Is You.
The United States Copyright Office lists 177 songs by that name on its website. The first dates to November 1963, and was registered by an A.C. Williams.
Andy Stone’s version was the 38th song by that name to be registered with the United States Copyright Office, the fourth of a total five to be registered in 1988 alone.
What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement is any breach of the rights granted to a copyright owner, without express permission of the copyright owner. One right, for example, might be the use of the work – so if someone owns a song, and another person uses that song (for example, in a film) without the owner’s permission, that’d be copyright infringement.
In this instance, Stone is arguing that his copyright grants him the right to prevent his song being used in the creation of other works, and is suggesting that Mariah Carey’s song having the same name (without his permission) would infringe on that right.
Is Andy Stone likely to win this case?
More likely than not, Stone isn’t actually hoping to win – rather, he’s likely hoping to settle out of court. It’s a relatively common occurrence for smaller musicians to launch legal claims against more prominent musicians, typically in the hope that the defendant will make a payment to reach a resolution before the case enters the courtroom.
The tides are shifting on that, though: Ed Sheeran recently took the unusual step to countersue grime artist Sami Chokri when Chokri accused him of plagiarising Shape of You, explaining his desire to hit back against a culture “where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there’s no basis for the claim”.
Whether Mariah Carey will settle out of court is at present unclear, as the star is yet to publicly comment on Stone’s claim (which is itself unusual, given he’s not arguing any musical/lyrical similarity between songs).