The Most Famous Music Copyright Infringement Cases

Copyright Protection The Most Famous Music Copyright Infringement Cases

No, You Can’t Use That Song—Music Copyright Infringement Cases

Did you know that those YouTube copyright disclaimers don’t mean much to the current U.S. copyright laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Copyright is a complicated subject, and it’s not enough to just learn the difference between copyright notices and claims. To fully understand how copyright works, we need to explore some famous cases of copyright infringement in the music industry.  

Music Copyright Infringement

Copyright lasts for 70 years after the owner’s death, and more music passes into the public domain each year. Such a long period leaves a lot of room for violation of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights to copy, perform, and distribute their creative work. 


Recognizing copyright infringement isn’t difficult on paper—whenever someone uses your music without explicit permission, they are infringing on your rights. In the case of legal action, proving infringement is more complex. You need to prove that:

  • You own the rights
  • Someone copied your work 
  • The copy bears significant resemblance to the original work

The set of rights that we call copyright exists as soon as you create original work and fix it in a tangible or visible format. If you end up in court, they will acknowledge only the official copyright registrations from the U.S. Copyright Office

While copyrighting is not a new trend, the rise of the internet ushered in more specific legislation and the DMCA protection of digital content. Because of multiple streaming platforms and video-sharing services like YouTube, it has become crucial to learn how to copyright your music properly. 

Famous Bands That Have Been Sued for Copyright Infringement

In the era when people ask whether something can ever be truly original anymore, the line between inspiration and infringement gets blurry. 

The list below includes the most famous bands that ended up in court under accusations of copyright violation:

  • Led Zeppelin—Willie Dixon—an American blues legend—sued Led Zeppelin because of uncanny similarities between their songs Bring It On Home and Whole Lotta Love from their second album II to his songs Bring It On Home and You Need Love. Both times the artists reached agreements out of court for an undisclosed amount in damages and the inclusion of Dixon’s name in songwriting credits
  • The Verve—This band and its popular song Bittersweet Symphony from the nineties went through a lot of legal trouble because they sampled mere four seconds from the song The Last Time by The Rolling Stones. The court decided in favor of The Rolling Stones, and The Verve lost all rights to the song. It was used in a Nike commercial against their will, and when it was nominated for a Grammy, the names on the ballot were Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
  • The Beatles—Morris Levy—a producer who owned the rights to Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me—sued John Lennon and argued that the song Come Together is the same as Berry’s work in a slower tempo. They settled the issue outside of court when Lennon agreed to record three songs copyrighted by Levy, which fell through and resulted in more court appearances for both artists

Other Important Copyright Infringement Cases in Music

We don’t have to go too far in the past to find big lawsuits for copyright infringement in the music industry. Some of the biggest and most influential settlements for copyright infringement occurred in the last few decades, including:

  • Vanilla Ice vs. Queen & David Bowie—The song Under Pressure by Bowie and Queen was a huge hit—so much that the rapper Vanilla Ice used its famous bassline in his song Ice Ice Baby. That song also became a chart-topper, but the authors ended up in court eventually deciding to settle the matters privately for an undisclosed sum
  • Metallica vs. Napster—Another landmark case with tremendous repercussions on how we share and listen to music in the age of the internet happened when Metallica filed a lawsuit against the peer-to-peer sharing service Napster. Metallica won in the end, and Napster had to file for bankruptcy
  • Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams vs. Marvin Gaye—This copyright infringement case was special because Marvin Gaye’s estate didn’t claim direct plagiarism in 2013 hit Blurred Lines but the style and the feel of his song Got To Give It Up from 1977. The case set new standards for copyright protection and resulted in a $5 million settlement in favor of Gaye’s estate

How To Protect Your Music From Copyright Infringement

Exercising your rights in court—even if you are the legitimate author of your music—won’t be easy unless you file for a copyright registration certificate. You can register your work on the Copyright Office website or send the registration documents using mail. 

To copyright your music officially, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Copyright Office website and set up your free account
  2. Click on Register and choose the appropriate category
  3. Complete the registration form
  4. Pay the registration fees
  5. Upload a recording of your song or a transcript of your lyrics in one of the supported formats 

If you opt for mail registration, you will have to send over a CD recording, printed sheet music, or lyrics, depending on the copyright category. 

You can find the current registration fees in this table:

Online Registrations Single author, same claimant, one work, not for hire $45
All other filings $65
Paper Registrations (Forms PA, SR, TX, VA, SE) $125

Getting your certificate faster is possible if you pay an additional $800 for special handling.  

DoNotPay Can Help You Fight Copyright Infringement

Not every music copyright infringement case needs to end up in court. Thanks to the DMCA, it is possible to stop infringement for digital content by issuing takedown notices to website owners or internet service providers, even if you haven’t registered your work officially. 

Several components are necessary for a DMCA notice to be valid, but you don’t need to worry about the legal details. DoNotPay can create well-written, custom-made takedown notices within minutes if you follow these steps:

  1. Sign up for DoNotPay in any web browser
  2. Select DMCA Takedown after you log in
  3. Take the short questionnaire to provide relevant information about your music
  4. Verify your contact information
  5. Finalize the notice by clicking on Sign and Submit

While it’s better to provide at least some ownership proof, DoNotPay doesn’t require it to create an efficient takedown notice. 

Save Yourself From Other Bureaucratic Problems With DoNotPay

If you want to learn about copyright infringement cases in other industries or specific music copyright laws, our platform is your go-to resource. 

Copyright infringement is not the only problem that DoNotPay grapples with successfully. Our platform carries the label of being the world’s first robot lawyer for a good reason. 

Open your web browser, sign in to your DoNotPay account, and get familiar with better, more convenient methods of handling your daily paperwork troubles. In our Learning Center, you will discover how to: 


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