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Man Files Copyright Lawsuit Against Nickelback Over ‘Rockstar’

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A man named Kirk Johnston has filed a lawsuit against Nickelback, Roadrunner Records, Warner Chappell Music, Inc. and Live Nation, stating that the band’s 2005 song “Rockstar” is copyright infringement.

According to the suit, Johnston wrote a song called “Rock Star” in 2001 while he was in the band Snowblind Revival, and made 15 copies of the master tape to send to record labels — including Roadrunner and Warner Chappell Music. He claims that the labels gave Nickelback access to the song, and they, in turn, copied it.

Johnston elaborated that “a substantial amount of the music” was copied, including “the tempo, song form, melodic structure, harmonic structures, and lyrical themes.” He’s seeking damages for copyright infringement and an order against further infringement.

Listen to the songs below.

Nickelback affirmed that Johnston cannot claim copyright infringement because the two songs “are not substantially similar to an ordinary observer.”

Magistrate Judge Susan Hightower reviewed the suit and submitted her recommendation to Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on Aug. 11. While she said the complaints against Live Nation should be dismissed, she noted that Johnston rightfully alleged that the members of Nickelback had access to his composition.

“Johnston has alleged facts sufficient to raise his right to relief above the speculative level, which is all that is required at the pleading stage,” she said.

Furthermore, she mentioned that it’s possible for a juror to determine whether or not the songs share substantial similarity. “Whether Johnston will be able to produce evidence that these similarities rise to the level of ‘substantial’ or ‘striking’ in view of the Nickelback Defendants’ level of access is yet to be determined,” she stated.

Snowblind Revival – ‘Rock Star’

Nickelback – ‘Rockstar’

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