Nickelback Clap Back at "Rockstar" Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
"Copyright [doesn't] protect the commonplace lyrical theme of imagining being a rock star"
Published Sep 13, 2021We all just wanna be big rockstars, indeed. Nickelback have responded to last month's copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Kirk Johnston (of Texas band Snowblind Revival), which accused the Canadian rockers of ripping off his band's "Rock Star" for Nickelback's 2006 hit "Rockstar."
As previously reported, Johnston's lawsuit claims that a "substantial amount of the music" was copied, including "the tempo, song form, melodic structure, harmonic structures and lyrical themes."
Nickelback have now countered that "the two songs sound nothing alike" [via Blabbermouth].
In a court document, the band explained:
Johnston failed to identify any specific lyrical similarities between the works at issue; he could only conceivably point to the titles of the two works and "lyrical themes." Titles are not protectable by copyright and their similarity cannot give rise to an infringement claim. Nor does copyright protect the commonplace lyrical theme of imagining being a rock star.
They went on to note the dissimilar elements of the two songs, including the slower tempo of "Rockstar" — which also spans both major and minor keys, unlike Johnston's major-key composition — and their melodies that are obviously different to the average listener.
The band also pointed out that even the accuser has acknowledged that his band makes a different genre of music: "Unlike Nickeback's hard rock sound, Snowblind Revival would be considered an alternative rock band with more indie/eclectic roots."
Johnston's lawsuit speculates that the alleged theft may have occurred back in 2001, when Snowblind Revival sent demos to several record companies including Roadrunner Records — the label Nickelback were signed with at the time. In their statement, the band noted that Johnston never described the proceedings of the meetings he supposedly had with executives at the label, nor how Nickelback could've gained access to the demo.
Last month, Texas Magistrate Judge Susan Hightower deemed Johnston's claims "sufficient to raise his right to relief above the speculative level, which is all that is required at the pleading stage."
If you're on the hypothetical jury (should this case actually proceed to court), what's your call? Listen to both songs below.
You can also scratch an itch you didn't know you had and hear Nickelback's "Photograph" reimagined as a pop-punk song.