Classic Copyright Cases – Fantasy v Fogerty
This is undoubtedly one of the stranger music copyright cases I have heard in my lifetime so allow me to go straight into it.
Those of you rock fanatics out there are probably familiar with Creedence Clearwater Revival. They were a popular American rock group active in the late 1960s and early 70s. Their lead singer, lead guitarist and primary songwriter was John Fogerty.
The group disbanded acrimoniously in 1972 and Fogerty went on to have a respectable solo career. However, fast forward to the 80s and Fogerty was being sued by none other than his old label for sounding too much like himself. Well I never. In 1985 he released the solo track The Old Man Down the Road. This did not go down too well with Saul Zaentz, the owner of CCR’s old label, Fantasy Inc. Zaentz felt that the track sounded too similar to CCR’s 1970 track Run Through the Jungle, written by Fogerty and owned by Fantasy. So, as one does in America, he sued Fogerty for copyright infringement.
The case proceeded to trial and Fogerty explained to the Court that, whilst the tracks may have sounded similar, they were both variations of his characteristic swamp rock style. The jury ultimately determined that there was no copyright infringement. However, the Court did not award Fogerty his legal costs as the lawsuit was not frivolous and had not been brought by Fantasy in bad faith.
Fogerty was having none of it and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court who overturned the decision and awarded him his legal costs. Go on John.
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