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Screwed By The Lawyers / Music

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  • Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald added a bass track to the entirety of The White Stripes' 2001 album White Blood Cells, then put MP3s of the whole project (entitled Redd Blood Cells) online. Later on, after some kind of "arrangement," only the first track remains online.
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  • George Jones's 1989 single "The King Is Gone (So Are You)" was pulled as a single because it contained the phrase "yabba-dabba-doo" and thus became the subject of a lawsuit from Hanna-Barbera.
  • Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines"...grab some food, this is gonna take a while. Initially, Thicke and co-writers/co-performers Pharrell Williams and Clifford "T.I." Harris sued the family of the late singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye for alleging that "Blurred Lines" had infringed on the copyright of "Got to Give It Up." Thicke and Williams both claimed to the public that while the song was indeed an influence in writing "Blurred Lines," it did not copy the song outright and that it only replicated the groove and feel of it.
    The song was allegedly written at the recording studio in less than an hour. However, a year later, Thicke admitted in a deposition released by The Hollywood Reporter that he had never actually had any part in the song's composition, citing high drug and alcohol influence at the time and that Williams penned the song entirely. Ultimately, the Gaye family countersued the two artists for copyright infringement. T.I., meanwhile, was vindicated when he testified that he recorded his vocals after Thicke and Williams and that he played no part in songwriting despite being credited for it. On March 10, 2015, the Gaye family won the suit, and both Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay $7.4 million in damages to the family.
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  • The original packaging for Weezer's "Buddy Holly" single was a childhood photo of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo with an unidentified woman sitting next to him. When the band realized her likeness was being used without permission, the original packaging was recalled and replaced with another childhood photo of Cuomo with his brother, Leaves.
  • Incubus's debut album, Fungus Amongus, has not been reissued since 2000, and is not available in any digital outlet, due to both Old Shame from Incubus and legal conflicts between the band and Sony Music Entertainment.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic performed a parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" called "You're Pitiful", and intended to release it as the lead single to the album Straight Outta Lynwood. However, after recording completed, Atlantic Records (Blunt's label) prohibited Yankovic from releasing the song, despite Blunt giving prior approval to writing and liking the parody. Legally Atlantic had no authority to block the release; parody is well established as being protected speech and no permission is required. Yankovic seeks permission from the original artists of songs he wants to parody simply as a courtesy. It was later released as a free downloadable single on MySpace and has played it in concert, but it has never seen a general release to this day. In a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, this setback led to Al crafting "White & Nerdy" in its stead, and the song has since gone on to become one of his biggest hits. Amusingly, the "White & Nerdy" video features a massive Take That! to Atlantic in which Al vandalizes the Atlantic Records Wikipedia page with the words "YOU SUCK!", something his fans actually proceeded to do following the video's release.
    • Al has also noted at one point MGM, which had obtained the distributing rights for his movie, UHF after Orion went bankrupt, had sent him a cease-and-desist letter for playing clips at his live shows. He's since seemed to have had the legal matters settled.
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  • All modern prints of the Conan the Barbarian (1982) soundtrack exclude the track "Tower of Set" (also sometimes titled "Stealing the Eye of the Serpent") because it's basically the Clemencic Consort's "Cantiga 166" with eerie female vocals tacked on.
  • Sufjan Stevens' album Illinois initially had Superman on the cover art. A few weeks after the album's release, the record label, Asthmatic Kitty, realized they'd never gotten the rights to use Supe's likeness, so they pulled all unsold copies before DC Comics could sue them. Fortunately, AK worked out a deal with DC: they could sell the copies that had already been printed, but subsequent printings wouldn't include Superman. Some new covers had empty sky where Supes had been, while others had a bunch of balloons in his place. The initial vinyl pressing had a balloon sticker obscuring Supes. And the 10th anniversary remaster of the album substituted another superhero: Blue Marvel—and this time, AK made sure to get permission from Marvel Comics beforehand.
  • After Doro Pesch realized she was the only original member of Warlock left, she intended to continue using the name for what was essentially now her backing band as a solo artist, but the band's former manager Peter Zimmermann sued for the name rights and won. Pesch began using "Doro" as her touring name, though she eventually regained the rights to the name "Warlock" in 2011.
  • Peg + Cat's first album originally had a beautiful cover art that was a parody of the The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover art. However, later releases replaced it with much more generic and dull cover art. It's pretty much assumed that this happened.
  • The KLF are no stranger to this, given that many of their songs sampled other well-known songs. However, their most well-known run-in with lawyers was with the track "The Queen and I", whose title is not only a nod to The King and I, but they also heavily sampled ABBA's "Dancing Queen". After some fierce courtroom battles with ABBA's lawyers, they were forced to recall all unsold copies of the album the song is on from all store shelves. They then went to Sweden to try to gain an audience with ABBA to seek forgiveness. Failing to do so, they burnt several cartons of the unsold vinyls in a field and dumped the rest into the North Sea.note 
  • This is what ended up wrecking The Verve. The song "Bitter Sweet Symphony", which propelled them to mainstream fame in 1997, caught the attention of Allen Klein, former manager of The Rolling Stones and the owner of their pre-1971 work, sued them for overuse of a sample of Andrew Oldham Orchestra's version of "The Last Time". The Verve lost and was forced to change the writing credits to Jagger/Richards as well as give the Stones all of their earnings made from the song. They would end up flailing for another year before announcing their breakup. In May 2019 Richard Ashcroft, the lead singer of The Verve, announced that he had reached a deal with The Rolling Stones' current manager and Allen Klein's son (who inherited the publishing rights after Allen's death in 2009) which saw Jagger/Richards waiving their credit on the song and signing over all rights to The Verve.
  • A tweet from Donald Trump featuring a video of a mock movie trailer for his 2020 re-election campaign was taken down after Warner Bros. complained over its unauthorized use of the score from The Dark Knight Rises. In Trump's defense, the video wasn't made by his campaign and it's not clear that he knew the score was copyrighted, but still.
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  • John Denver's publishing company lawsuit over New Order's "Run 2", a remixed version of the track "Run" from their Technique album, over its alleged similarity to Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane", killed the single's commercial momentum, and is likely the reason that that version of the song was left off of compilations, even after the band settled out of court and gave Denver a writing credit.
  • John Fogerty's dispute with Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz kept him from launching a solo career in earnest until the 1980s, and then Zaentz sued him over the similarity of his solo hit, "The Old Man down the Road" to Creedence's "Run Through the Jungle", a song Fogerty wrote, since Zantz held the publishing rights to the Creedence catalog. Fogerty ultimately prevailed in court.
  • Alternative R&B artist Santogold changed her stage name to Santigold after receiving threats of legal action from Santo Victor Rigatuso (aka late-night TV marketing icon Santo Gold).

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