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White Stripes May Face Suit

Band could pay for “Citizen Kane”-inspired song

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.

In This Article: The White Stripes

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