Way back in 1970, George Harrison released his first single, My Sweet Lord, as a solo artist. You've probably heard it before. But did you know he was sued for Copyright Infringement for the song? He was ordered to pay $1,599,987. In fact, he later claimed he never received any money from the song as it's always been in escrow. Read on for the full story.
A song called He's So Fine, written by Ronnie Mack and performed by the Chiffons, was a chart-topper back in 1963 and after Harrison's song hit number one, Bright Tunes Music (the publisher who owned the rights to the song), sued George Harrison for copyright infringement. Check out the mash-up below and judge for yourself.
My favorite part about this case is the residing judge's opinion. The judge, Richard Owen (who was actually a composer himself), stated "it is clear that My Sweet Lord is the very same song as He's So Fine. This is, under the law, infringement of copyright and is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished."
He also stated ". . . in seeking musical materials to clothe his thought . . . there came to the surface of his mind a particular combination that pleased him as being one he felt would be appealing to a prospective listener." He said Harrison's subconscious mind "knew this combination of sounds would work because it already had worked in a song his conscious mind did not remember."
Did you catch how many times he pointed out George Harrison didn't mean to infringe on the copyright? That it was a subconscious mistake? Richard Owen was a fan! I mean, he's ruling against a BEATLE for copyright infringement.
In the end, George Harrison kinda got a happy ending as he went on to write This Song, inspired by the infringement case, which rode the charts to #25 in 1976.
In some related news, the song above is a cover of My Sweet Lord done by Hurray For The Riff Raff. They cleverly added some "Do Lang's" in there which I can't help but assume was an intentional nod to this case. Clever.