27. Will.i.am, “Let’s Go,” vs. DJ Arty & Mat Zo, “Rebound”
Not only did Will.i.am plagiarize DJ Arty & Mat Zo’s “Rebound” for his track “Let’s Go,” he outright admitted it. In a radio interview, Will.i.am responded to the rumors he had plagiarized the beat, saying “something happened” with the clearance. He allegedly worked out a deal with the DJs after the fact.
28. Katy Perry, “Dark Horse,” vs. Flame ft. Lecrae, “Joyful Noise”
Repeat offender alert! This one’s a bit of a mind-boggler. In 2008, the Christian rap group Flame joined forces with rapper Lecrae and John Reilly to create the Christian rap track “Joyful Noise.” In 2014, at the height of popularity for Katy Perry’s new hit “Dark Horse,” the group filed a copyright infringement lawsuit saying she lifted from their track. Oh, and did we mention they said their song was “irreparably tarnished by its association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in ‘Dark Horse'”? So, there’s that.
One year later, Flame addressed the lawsuit to the Christian Post, saying, “Everything has been worked out amicably with patience and kindness, so people who are peering in should just know that.”
29. Nirvana, “Come as You Are,” vs. Killing Joke, “Eighties”
There’s an old expression that says if you have to ask the question, you probably already know the answer. Well, in 1992, when Kurt Cobain was nervous about releasing the track “Come as You Are” out of fear that it sounded too much like the Killing Joke song “Eighties,” he should’ve trusted his gut.
The 2000 book Eyewitness Nirvana: The Day-By-Day Chronicle, written by the band’s manager at the time, Danny Goldberg, has more: “We met to discuss what [Nevermind‘s] second single would be. We couldn’t decide between ‘Come as You Are’ and ‘In Bloom.’ Kurt was nervous about ‘Come as You Are’ because it was too similar to a Killing Joke song [‘Eighties’], but we all thought it was still the better song to go with. And, he was right, Killing Joke later did complain about it.”
Killing Joke opted not to file a copyright infringement lawsuit for personal and financial reasons, according to Rolling Stone.
30. Skillet, “Monster,” vs. Three Days Grace, “Animal I Have Become”
Skillet isn’t some hack band — this Christian rock group has been around since 1996, released eight albums, received two Grammy nominations and landed on the Billboard 200 chart. But it was a bit of a hack move in 2009 when they released “Monster,” a song nearly identical in lyric and melody to Three Days Grace’s 2006 hit “Animal I Have Become.” Does “thou shalt not steal” ring any bells?
31. The Beach Boys, “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” vs. Chuck Berry, “Sweet Little Sixteen”
Poor Chuck Berry — people just can’t help sampling his songs. The Beach Boys weren’t exactly discreet about it, either. Their iconic hit “Surfin’ U.S.A.” clearly replicated the sound of Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.”
“I just took ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ and rewrote it into something of our own,” Brian Wilson told the Los Angeles Times in 2015.
According to Mental Floss, the Beach Boys’ manager gave Berry the copyright to the tune, to avoid a lawsuit. However, he didn’t tell any of the band members that Berry had been receiving royalties all this time.
32. Jay-Z & Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean, “Made in America,” vs. Joel McDonald, “Made in America”
Kanye West and Frank Ocean were named along with Hova for allegedly plagiarizing New York musician Joel McDonald’s track “Made in America.” You likely won’t recognize McDonald’s, but you probably know Jay-Z’s hit by the same name.
The lawsuit was filed in 2014, and, ultimately, Jay-Z, West and Ocean won the copyright infringement case in 2016. “We have considered all of McDonald’s arguments and find them to be without merit,” the court ruled.
33. Eminem, “Rap God,” vs. Hot Stylz, “Lookin’ Boy”
If you ask MC Raymond Jones — a rapper from the group Hot Stylz — Eminem is making good on the “shady” part of his alter ego, Slim Shady. According to the whopping $8 million lawsuit filed in January 2015, Jones alleges that Eminem sampled Jones’ song “Lookin’ Boy” without consent. Need proof, Jones asks? He says if you listen closely to Eminem’s “Rap God” mid-track, you’ll hear a 25-second sample of his song.
According to reports, Eminem and Jones reached a settlement in January 2016.
34. Jay-Z & Beyoncé, “Drunk in Love,” vs. Mitsou, “Bajba, Bajba Pelem”
In December 2014, Complex announced that a Hungarian folk singer who goes by Mitsou sued Jay-Z and Beyoncé over their song “Drunk in Love.” In the suit, Mitsou claims the power couple lifted vocals from her 1995 song “Bajba, Bajba Pelem” (we couldn’t find that exact song online, but above is a similar song with vocals by Mitsou).
One year later, in December 2015, Mitsou lost her case. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern wrote, “It is undisputed that the ‘Drunk in Love’ song and video are works of artistic expression and, pursuant to well-established law, they are therefore exempted from the Civil Rights Law.”
35. Demi Lovato, “Stars,” vs. Sleigh Bells, “Infinity Guitars”
Demi Lovato’s song “Stars” was received pretty favorably when it dropped in 2015 with her fifth studio album, Confident, but not everyone is — dare we go there? — starry-eyed over the single. In a copyright infringement suit filed in April 2016, pop duo Sleigh Bells alleged that Lovato basically lifted their critically acclaimed 2010 hit “Infinity Guitars.” The suit claims, specifically, that there is “virtually identical content” in the songs, specifically “the combination of the hand claps and bass drum, structured as 3 quarter beats and a rest.” Sleigh Bells is apparently hoping to see some profits from the suit and would like the song to see restricted airplay, but litigation is currently ongoing.
The two parties reached a settlement one year later, in April 2017.