Petty, Smith restore harmony with rights accord

It was shaping up to be a big-time copyright clash, with the songs at issue curiously reflecting their artist’s positions: rocker Tom Petty, for example, had his legal weight behind his hit, I Won’t Back Down, while balladeer Sam Smith staked out a less combative position, as summed up in his chart-topping, Stay With Me. In the end, as has been widely reported, the tune-smiths found harmonious agreement in a public, negotiated settlement that averted infringement litigation, the likes of which the courts are struggling in some other notable instances. Petty and Jeff Lynne, of ELO fame, each will receive a 12.5% writing credit and royalties for Smith’s Stay, whose similarities with Back Down rested in a stirring chorus and a verse. While the case never got to court, it’s clear that Petty and Lynne would have had to show access and similarity to prevail in an infringement claim; neither cause appears to have been a monumental task to prove. As for access, the 1989 Petty song is oft-cited as among his best-known works with numerous covers and versions. Petty himself is recognized as one of the most popular recording artists of the last thirty years.  As for similarity, numerous sources have pointed to the distinct likenesses between the two songs. Ed Rex at Medium reports how “whole passages are identical…. Of the four phrases, three are virtually identical....

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