Judge Denies Dismissal of Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood ‘Remind Me’ Lawsuit
A lawsuit alleging that the songwriters behind Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood's hit duet 'Remind Me' stole from another songwriter will move forward after a federal judge ruling in Nashville on Tuesday (Dec. 3).
Amy Bowen filed the lawsuit against Sony Music and others in May, asking for $10 million.
Bowen, who performs as Lizza Connor, wrote a song called 'Remind Me' in 2007, copyrighting it in 2008. Kelley Lovelace, Chris DuBois and Paisley wrote their hit 'Remind Me' in late 2010 or early 2011 (according to court documents), and Paisley released it as the third single from 'This is Country Music' in May 2011.
The songs are lyrically very different, but both use the words "Remind me" followed by "Baby, remind me" multiple times in the chorus.
That alone may not have been enough for Judge Aleta Trauger to dismiss Paisley and the other defendants' request for dismissal. Bowen says she participated in a 14-week country music songwriting workshop in early 2008, during which Lovelace was a featured advisor. He critiqued her song extensively and said the track would work well as a duet. DuBois was also an advisor. Following that, Bowen performed the song many times around Nashville.
Furthermore, an employee for a publishing company Bowen began working with in 2009 left and joined EMI Music Publishing, Lovelace's publisher. This employee was a "song pluggger" -- someone who takes a songwriter's songs and tries to get singers to record them. While she is mentioned by name, it's not clear how closely Bowen worked with this person.
The key points in Judge Trauger's ruling state that the lyrics aren't as important as how they're performed:
With the exception of the words “remind me” and “baby, remind me,” the lyrics of the songs are different. The parties appear to agree, as they must, that the words “Remind me” and “Baby, remind me” are, in and of themselves, not copyrightable. However, Bowen argues that the defendants appropriated not only the words “Remind me” and “Baby, remind me,” but the manner in which Bowen utilized those words in the song “Remind Me,” as well as the associated
melodies and distinctive vocal intonations.
The Hollywood Reporter makes a case that the Sixth Circuit Court is particularly friendly to plaintiffs in music disputes. The ruling relies heavily on precedent set in previous cases, including one involving George Clinton (the words "bow wow wow, yippee yo, yippea yea" are used in this ruling).
"No plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate," Trauger writes. Read the entire 17-page ruling here.
This doesn't mean the songwriters did steal from Bowen, only that Bowen's case can move forward. It's not clear what the timeline for that next step is. Paisley and Underwood's 'Remind Me' reached No. 1 on the country charts and sold over one million singles.