Girl in Hot Water: Songwriter Sued for Alleged Copyright Infringement
Alicia Keys is being sued by songwriter Earl Shuman for allegedly sampling a portion of his 1960’s composition, Hey There Lonely Girl, in her new single Girl on Fire. Keys’ song, which was released on September 4, has risen to No. 21 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart.
On December 10, Shuman brought suit in the Central District of California claiming that the 31 year old singer/songwriter never sought permission to sample from the 1962 song composed by Shuman and his writing partner, Leon Carr. According to the Federal Court complaint that also names her record label Sony Music as a defendant, Shuman retained the right to receive royalties on the song even though the copyright was assigned to music publisher Music Sales Corp., in 1991. Shuman alleges that Keys is earning money from her new song without
credit attribution, payment of royalties or other recognition of plaintiff’ rights.
The impetus for Shuman’s suit appears to stem from a November posting on the entertainment blog Showbiz 411, wherein a writer for the blog noticed the similarity in the song bridge when Keys sings “It’s a lonely girl / And it’s a lonely world”. The refrain lasts approximately 2 seconds in the four minute song.