A federal judge in Texas told a federal district court that Nickelback must face a copyright lawsuit over claims the band plagiarised its 2005 mega hit “Rockstar” from an earlier song called “Rock Star.”
Songwriter Kirk Johnston filed a lawsuit against Chad Kroeger, Michael Kroeger, Ryan Peake and Daniel Adair, the band’s former record label Roadrunner Records and Warner Chappell Music, Inc. and Live Nation Entertainment, Inc.
Johnston claims Nickelback copied his song, “Rock Star,” which he wrote in 2001 while he was a member of the band Snowblind Revival.
Per the lawsuit, Snowblind Revival had their song “Rock Star” mastered in 2001 with three other original songs which were sent out to record labels, including Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, which own Roadrunner and Warner Chappell Music.
Johnston alleges that Nickelback had access to his song because of Snowblind Revival’s marketing efforts. He claims that “a substantial amount of the music in ‘Rockstar’ is copied” from his song, including tempo, arrangement, orchestration, harmonic structure and lyrical themes.
He’s seeking damages for copyright infringement and an injunction against further infringement.
Last Wednesday, Magistrate Judge Susan Hightower said in her report and recommendation to Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas that Johnston’s complaint provides sufficient evidence for the lawsuit to move forward.
“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,” Hightower wrote.
Nickelback argued that Johnston’s case should not move forward because “fundamentally, the works at issue are not substantially similar to an ordinary observer.”
Judge Hightower disagreed, writing that it is possible a reasonable juror could determine the works share protectable elements. Whether Johnston can produce enough evidence that those protectable elements are “substantial” remains to be determined, she added.