Earlier this month, Tone Deaf reported on a suit filed by songwriter Katie Farrah Sopher, who claims that several songs on Disclosure’s acclaimed 2013 debut, Settle, as well as tracks by AlunaGeorge, were in fact cribbed from a personal notebook stolen by her abusive ex-boyfriend.
Among the tracks that Sopher claimed she had authored was ‘Latch’, Disclosure’s collaboration with UK crooner Sam Smith. But while Disclosure claim they are the sole composers of every track on their debut and the results of Sopher’s suit remain to be seen, Smith has copped to borrowing from another songwriter.
Except, it’s not Sopher who Smith borrowed from, but a far more prominent fellow musician, Tom Petty. As Consequence of Sound reports, after Petty’s team noticed the similarities between Smith’s hit ‘Stay With Me’ and Petty’s classic rock staple ‘I Won’t Back Down’, they took action.
Smith and Petty reportedly settled out of court back in October, but details of the dispute only emerged this past weekend. The settlement reportedly included a 12.5 percent writing credit to both Petty and singer-composer Jeff Lynne, best known as the frontman of Electric Light Orchestra.
“When Sam’s track was originally released, it was clear to a lot of musicians that there were notable similarities between the tracks,” said one source close to the case. “After it was pointed out to Sam’s camp, they didn’t try to fight it and amicably dished out royalties.
“It wasn’t a deliberate thing, musicians are just inspired by other artists and Sam and his team were quick to hold up their hand when it was officially flagged,” they source added. The case was apparently resolved “behind closed doors without any mud being slung”.
According to a rep for Smith, the similarities between the two tracks are “a complete coincidence” and the writers of ‘Stay With Me’ weren’t in fact aware of ‘I Won’t Back Down’. “Not previously familiar with the 1989 Petty/Lynne song, the writers… listened to ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and acknowledged the similarity,” the source said.
Since details of the dispute arose, a question on the minds of many music industry pundits was whether Petty and Lynne would now be entitled to a Grammy Award, should ‘Stay With Me’ win for Best Pop Performance and/or Record of the Year.
Senior Vice President of Awards for the Grammys Bill Freimuth has since provided an answer to the Wall Street Journal. According to Freimuth, “Since Lynne and Petty did not do any new writing for this work, we are considering their original work to have been interpolated by Napier, Phillips, and Smith for ‘Stay With Me.’”
“Lynne and Petty will not be considered nominees nor will they be considered GRAMMY recipients, should the song win. Rather, they would be given certificates to honor their participation in the work, just as any other writers of sampled or interpolated work,” he added.
It’s not the only major authorship dispute raging at the moment. As Billboard reports, composer Richard Friedman is demanding monetary damages and an injunction on the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, claiming the film’s composer, Hans Zimmer, stole a portion of Friedman’s music for the film’s score.
While the Friedman case is interesting, particularly as the plaintiff claims that his piece, titled ‘American Heart’, was recorded in the same facility that Zimmer used for 12 Years a Slave, we still can’t get over that one of the biggest hits of last year (‘Stay With Me’) was a rip-off of a mum rock song.