Last week on Two for Tuesday, I wrote about the plagiarism suit involving the two classic country songs Rocky Top and You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma. This week, I’ll summarize the plagiarism suit that former Beatles member George Harrison was involved in. The songs are:
My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
He’s So Fine by The Chiffons (written by Ronnie Mack)
The plagiarism lawsuit was filed in February 1971 by the publisher of He’s So Fine, Bright Tunes, against Harrison. Negotiations ensued. Two years later, Harrison offered 40% royalties of My Sweet Lord to Bright Tunes.
His offer was rejected, which sent the case to trial in February 1976. By September, it was determined that Harrison had apparently listened to He’s So Fine prior to writing My Sweet Lord and subconscious plagiarism occurred.
It still took another five years for a legal decision to be made about the amount of damages Harrison would pay.
Beatles one-upon-a-time manager, Allen Klein, (Harrison, Lennon, and Starr fired him later on) bought He’s So Fine from Bright Tunes in 1978. Bright Tunes was in financial trouble at the time.
Klein asked for $1.6 million in damages. In February 1981, Klein was awarded $587,000, which was the exact cost of the rights he’d paid to Bright Tunes for He’s So Fine. Apparently the court had reached the end of its patience with Klein’s “duplicity in the case” and, to quote the Wikipedia article referenced below, “…Klein’s actions had been in breach of the fiduciary duty owed to Harrison, a duty that continued ‘even after the principal–agent relationship ended’…”
The suit didn’t actually end until 1998 when all the little details of the settlement were finally worked out.
This Wikipedia article My Sweet Lord offers a lengthy explanation.
Until next time,
writing through history one romance upon a time