Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart
Mini Article – Volume 23, Issue 21
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Queen of Christmas Sued for Copyright Infringement – Again
By Kristyn Webb
In the US, we’ve just wrapped up Halloween and are preparing for Thanksgiving. Yet, we are already seeing Christmas decorations going up and holiday music is filling the airwaves—and copyright lawsuits are filling the dockets!
Earlier this month, Mariah Carey was named in a lawsuit in federal district court for copyright infringement. The plaintiffs, musicians Andy Stone (stage name “Vince Vance”) and Troy Powers, allege that the so-called “Queen of Christmas” used their country music song “All I want for Christmas is You” as the basis for her hit pop song with the same title. Stone and Powers claim that the lyrical similarities between the two songs are more than a coincidence. Both songs reference “sleighbells in the snow,” the narrator needing “just one thing,” that “Santa can’t bring,” and general disillusionment with material gifts. Both songs use the same chord progressions, including the most “Christmassy” chord (according to musicologists) which is the diminished C-6.
The country music version debuted in 1989 and became a hit in 1993. The pop version has been a seasonal staple since 1994 when it was written and released. Both versions have been widely celebrated. The country version rendition performed by Vince Vance & the Valiants made it onto Billboard’s Hot Country chart several times. Carey’s pop renditions have topped charts worldwide and have earned “Diamond” status. In 2017, it was estimated that Carey’s song had earned over $60 million USD since its release. Not bad for a song she claims to have written in 15 minutes when she was only 24 years old.
Stone filed a similar lawsuit in 2022, but dropped it early on. Both the 2022 lawsuit and the 2023 lawsuit alleged $20 million USD in damages. We will have to wait and see whether the Queen of Christmas has to pay up in high notes of legal tender, or if this lawsuit is dropped like the last one and she has a *Claus* for celebration.
Kristyn Webb is the Group Leader of Fishman Stewart’s Copyright Practice Group, and is currently earning a Master’s Degree in Copyright Law at King’s College London.
Published November 17, 2023
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