MANHATTAN (CN) – Pop-music hitmaker Ed Sheeran may be credited as a writer of Tim McGraw’s new duet with Faith Hill, but two Aussies claim in a federal complaint that the ballad is a shameless ripoff of a song they penned in 2014.
“The copying is, in many instances, verbatim, note-for-note copying of important and original elements of the song, and is obvious to the ordinary observer,” the complaint states, filed on Jan. 10 in New York’s Southern District.
Sydney-based songwriters Sean Carey and Beau Golden are represented in the case by the Nashville firm King & Ballow and in New York by Gordon, Gordon & Schnapp.
The pair say they wrote “When I Found You” in 2014 with Australian singer Jasmine Rae, who included the track on her 2015 album “Heartbeat.”
A year after the song hit No. 1 on Australian country music charts, Carey and Golden say a fan tweeted to Rae about some remarkable similarities between “When I Found You” and “The Rest of Our Life,” a 2017 duet by married U.S. country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
In addition to Hill and McGraw, the complaint names as defendants Sony Music Entertainment, UK crooner Ed Sheeran, two other co-writers and a number of other music publishers.
Australian singer Rae is not a party to the complaint, which notes that her boyfriend, Tim Holland, is a marketing manager at Sony.
As the writers were considering their legal options, according to the complaint, Holland disclosed he was aware of similarities between “The Rest of Our Life” and “When I Found You” for more than two months before the McGraw-Hill duet was released on Oct. 5, 2017.
Holland is also not a party to the complaint, but Carey and Golden say they are more than a little suspicious of his role in the infringing song.
“Indeed, it strains credibility to believe that it is just a coincidence that the infringing song … a blatant note for note copy of the song, was created without Mr. Holland’s providing access, when Mr. Holland is the boyfriend of one of the writers of the song,” the complaint states. “In support of this position, Plaintiffs allege, upon information and belief, that Mr. Holland presented plaintiffs’ song to Sony Music in an effort to gain exposure for Ms. Rae and promote her work. Upon further information and belief, plaintiffs assert that the song was then made available to the defendant writers by others affiliated with Sony Music.”
The complaint also notes that “Sheeran was touring extensively in Australia” when Rae’s song was enjoying its biggest success on the country’s airwaves.
Carey and Golden also included in the complaint a musical transcription that illustrate distinct structural properties in both songs, including “identical scale degrees in the primary melodic line, (3-2-1-6-6-5), shared scale degrees in the tones within each chord, shared waltz-like rhythms in 3/4 meter: three quarter note upbeats.”
Sony Music Entertainment declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The suit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.
Busch recently waged the landmark copyright battle against Pharrell Williams Robin Thicke, whose song “Blurred Lines” was found to infringe the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”
Gaye’s heirs prevailed in the case to the tune of $5.3 million, reduced from $7.4 million.
Billboard reports that Sheeran’s song “Shape of You” has garnered more than 1.55 billion streams to date, seizing the modern superlative of being Spotify’s most-streamed song of all time.
In August 2016, Sheeran was accused of stealing the melody and composition of legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye’s triumphant “Let’s Get It On” without recognition for his song “Thinking Out Loud,” which he had even blended in a mashup with Gaye’s original during live performances.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan dismissed the “Let’s Get It On” case without prejudice in February 2017.