It is pretty standard for artists, songwriters, and the like to have music that sounds similar. But on certain occasions, a copyright lawsuit is filed. This is exactly what happened with Grand Upright Music and Warner Brothers Records.
The songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan sued the rapper Biz Markie after Markie used a part of O’Sullivan’s song “Alone Again.” Even if it was just a 20-second slice, this was labeled as copyright infringement.
Who is Gilbert O’Sullivan?
He is an Irish singer and songwriter who was quite popular back in the 70s. His hits include Alone Again, Clair, and Get Down. However, O’Sullivan’s music had a different tune marked off with his percussive piano playing and witty lyrics.
Raymond Edward “Gilbert” O’Sullivan was born on December 1, 1946, in Waterford, Ireland. His mother ran a sweet shop, while his father was a butcher at Clover Meats. The family moved to London by the time O’Sullivan was seven. A year after their big move, they settled in Swindon. He began playing the piano and thought that he could make money out of his talent.
I come from a working class background, but we always had a piano, the thinking of my parents was that if one of your kids could play it, you could make some money at it.Gilbert O’Sullivan
By 1970 O’Sullivan achieved early success when his song Nothing Rhymed hit the UK’s top 10. This also went on to be number one in the Netherlands. His success in the industry lasted for years before he went on a 5-year hiatus. (Source: Gilbert OSullivan)
Who is Biz Markie?
Biz Markie or Marcel Theo Hall was an American rapper and producer. He was best known for his single Just a Friend. He was also known to be the Clown Prince of Hip Hop during the height of his career.
Markie was born in Harlem, Manhattan. He was raised in Long Island and started his career in nightclubs in New York. When people ask about his stage name, here’s what he had to say;
Biz comes from the first hip-hop tape I heard. It was ’77, ’78, from the L Brothers. Grand Wizard Theodore was the DJ, and the rappers was Kevvy Kev, Master Rob and Busy Bee Starski. I loved Busy Bee. Busy Bee just stuck with me. My name used to be Bizzy B Markie, and after a while I put the Biz with the Markie. My nickname in my neighborhood was Markie.Biz Markie
Aside from music, Markie also dabbled in a few films. He made an appearance in the Men in Black II alongside Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. He played an alien parody of himself. (Source: All Music)
What Was the The Lawsuit About? Who Won?
O’Sullivan filed a suit against Markie on November 13, 1992. He filed the lawsuit claiming that Alone Again was part of the song I Need a Haircut.
By December 18, 1992, Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy decided that Markie and Warner Brothers violated US copyright law.
Thou shalt not steal’ has been an admonition followed since the dawn of civilization. Unfortunately, in the modern world of business this admonition is not always followed.Judge Duffy
O’Sullivan won a large settlement from the suit. (Source: LA Times)