Nae, slappin? Dinnae talk mince. I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug! the fandan in Manhattan (a U.S. District judge) effectively has told the plaintiff accusing the renowned rockers in U2 of copyright infringement.
Paul Rose, a Newcastle native with a penchant for picking at least one Scottish (?) song title, asserted in a suit that Irishman Bono and his Dublin band mates, with their 4:25 vocal and instrumental single The Fly (click on the photo above to play the official video), had infringed on and wrongly taken elements of his original musical composition Nae Slappin, a 3:30 extended guitar riff with just drum and bass backing.
How did Nae supposedly take wing from Rose’s ax to U2’s ears? In 1989, Rose said, after making a demo of his track, he sent the tape to Island Records. That also was the same year Island signed U2, which would go on to collect 22 Grammys, get elected to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and sell more than 170 million records. According to Rose’s complaint, U2 strived for a “stark departure from their previous music.”
Rose, a seasoned session and solo performer and composer, alleged three similarities within a thirteen-second segment, which would constitute a direct infringement including:
- A virtual note for note reproduction of the guitar line
- Presence of tambourine
- Same drum, percussion and bass line
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote dismantled the plaintiff’s allegations with an in-depth analysis of the thirteen-second fragment. In the opinion, Cote stated that plaintiff failed to explain what phrases in the guitar line were original. Moreover, even if he could identify protect-able elements, the fragment “does not constitute a sufficiently ‘substantial’ portion of Nae Slappin.” Two elements needed to sustain a claim for copyright infringement ((1) substantial element of plaintiff’s work; and (2) is of great qualitative importance) were absent from his original brief.
Further, contrary to what Rose argued, the presence of the tambourine, drum, percussion, and bass line are “not an original expression that can be protected by copyright.”
The judge held that no reasonable juror could find a literal or near literal copy between the fragments in the two tunes.