.

White Stripes May Face Suit

Band could pay for "Citizen Kane"-inspired song

April 1, 2003 12:00 AM ET

The White Stripes could face a copyright-infringement suit over "The Union Forever," which borrows liberally from Citizen Kane. The song, from the band's 2001 White Blood Cells, takes its title and most of its lyrics from the 1941 Orson Welles film. A spokesperson for Warner Bros., which owns the distribution rights to Citizen Kane, told Rolling Stone that the company is "reviewing the matter."

White Blood Cells has moved more than 650,000 copies to date in the U.S. alone, according to SoundScan. That could make a lawsuit worth serious money.

"I believe that Warner Bros. has a reasonable case against the White Stripes," says copyright attorney Sam Ibrahim. "In the event that a court found infringement, Warner Bros. could get an injunction to stop future sales. The band could be found liable for millions of dollars in damages, and to keep selling [the album] they would have to pay a royalty. It could be in excess of three or four million dollars."

The Stripes don't mention the film in the album's credits, which read "All songs written and performed by the White Stripes," but Jack White has been open about "The Union Forever"'s roots in Citizen Kane. "There's a song in the film 'It Can't Be Love, Because There Is No True Love' at a party they have in the Everglades," he told Rolling Stone just before Cells' release. "I was trying to play it on guitar, and I went through the film and started writing down things that might rhyme and make sense together."

Copyright attorney Laurence Pulgram explains that White's patchwork writing method could actually be the band's primary defense. "The White Stripes would argue that its use is transformative," he says, "in that it does not merely copy the film in a film, but takes bits and pieces of the film and transforms them into a song; and that this will not reduce sales or otherwise affect the 'market' for the film."

A spokesperson for the White Stripes had no comment by press time.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com