Songs on Trial: 12 Landmark Music Copyright Cases

We look back at historic rulings from "Surfin' U.S.A." to "Blurred Lines"

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John Fogerty vs. Creedence Clearwater Revival (1985)
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John Fogerty vs. Creedence Clearwater Revival (1985)

"The Old Man Down the Road," by John Fogerty (1985) vs. "Run Through the Jungle," by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970)

The Case: Fogerty's 1972 split with his Creedence Clearwater Revival bandmates and their label, Fantasy Records, was so acrimonious that Fogerty refused to perform songs from his former group for 15 years. When he released his chart-topping solo disc Centerfield in 1985, Fantasy filed a lawsuit claiming that the lead single, "The Old Man Down the Road" stole from "Run Through the Jungle," a song he wrote and recorded with Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1970. 

The Verdict: Bringing his guitar to the courtroom witness stand, Fogerty ably demonstrated that the two songs were in fact different compositions. The judge ruled in his favor in 1994, and he countersued Fantasy Records president Saul Zaentz to recoup his legal costs. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court before Fogerty won and was awarded coverage for his fees in both cases. 

Why It Matters: In addition to the sheer novelty of being sued for sounding too much like oneself, Fogerty's countersuit became a precedent-setting Supreme Court case that regulates how attorney fees are paid out to artists in copyright cases.

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