Play the video above and decide for yourself if Avril (or the people who write her songs for her) ripped off obscure 70's pop-rockers The Rubinoos*. Nicholas Carlin, the lawyer representing Rubinoos songwriter/founder Tommy Dunbar, certainly thinks she did.
"She's made a lot of money off of my client's song," Carlin said by phone from northern California, where the claim was filed.Terry McBride, Avril's manager and head honcho at Nettwerk (who seem, above all other management companies, to get it) is pissed:
"The entire song is not the same, they have different bridges, but the heart and soul of her song is directly taken from our client's song."
Lavigne's manager, Terry McBride, scoffed at the charges, calling the suit "baseless" and little more than a "case of legal blackmail."But here's the thing: a song doesn't need to be an exact copy for a judge to decide there has been an infringement, and it's anything but an exact science. And even though McBride has gone so far as to hire musicologists (Where do I get that job? -Ed.) that have sided with him and called the Rubinoos claim baseless, he is considering settling out of court to save some cash.
"Avril's a great songwriter and she's proving it over and over and over again," McBride said from Vancouver, where he runs Nettwerk Music Group.
He noted that a similar claim against his client Sarah McLachlan about 10 years ago cost roughly $500,000 to defeat in court. When Nettwerk tried to recoup the costs from the plaintiffs, they declared bankruptcy, he said.The bottom line for me is this: what are the chances Avril Lavigne, who you would have trouble convincing me has even a modicum of cultural awareness beyond her own years, has ever heard this obscure track? I can't really see her combing through the used vinyl racks at her local record store and being taken by the snappy name of the Rubinoos. If she had written "Girlfriend" all by herself, this would probably just be coincidence. But the suit also names her songwriting partner "Dr. Luke" (Are you serious? -Ed.), whose CV suggests a bit more awareness.
Veteran entertainment lawyer Paul Sanderson said copyright suits are common in the music business and are often settled out of court.
"There used to be a saying in the industry: 'Where there's a hit, there's a writ,' " said Sanderson, a Toronto lawyer who used to represent Lavigne and whose current clients include Chantal Kreviazuk and Ron Sexsmith.
"It really is about the money. If someone thinks that they have a possibility of making some money out of the claim and there's money in the pipeline that's been earned by a song ... there's money there to argue about."
McBride said his current legal battle is "an unfortunate part of this business."
"We will try and settle for costs that will be less than defending," he said. "Emotionally, it sucks. But at the end of the day you have to take that out of it."
Here's how this thing's going to go down:
- McBride settles out of court but maintains his client's integrity.
- Avril claims complete ignorance of the Rubinoos existence (probably true).
- Dr. Luke makes mental note that no matter how obscure a song from his childhood seems to be, if he makes a hit out of it for some pop-tart, someone is going to come a-knocking for an easy payday.
- The Rubinoos, encouraged by more press over this case than the band ever got for their music, go on tour. Nobody cares.
* I'm always a little bit surprised when bands like The Rubinoos have MySpace pages. I know everyone has one at this point, but still. The Rubinoos have one. What a world.