Judge Rules for Nickelback in ‘Rockstar’ Copyright Case, Claims Accusation ‘Borders on the Absurd’
We all just wanna be big rock stars, and Nickelback will continue to do so without being any lighter in the pocket after a federal judge ruled in their favor in a copyright infringement case. The song that fell under question was the band's 2006 hit single "Rockstar," which Snowblind Revival musician Kirk Johnston had claimed mirrored a song he'd done also called "Rock Star."
As Billboard reports, the band emerged victorious after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled that there was zero evidence that suggested that Nickelback had ever even heard Johnston's song and that after a review of the lyrics, he found that Johnston's accusations at some points "borders on the absurd."
One of Johnston's primary arguments centered on the themes of their respective songs, but Pitman ruled that not only did the songs not sound alike, but there wasn't really an overlap lyrically either.
“Stated simply, they do not sound alike,” the judge wrote in his order Thursday (March 16). “Where both songs evoke similar themes, they are rendered dissimilar through the vivid detail of the original expression in Nickelback’s lyrics.”
He continued, “This includes, for example, any suggestion that the two baseball analogies in Nickelback’s work are evidence that the band copied Johnston’s lyric ‘might buy the Cowboys’ professional football team simply because both are ‘references to sports.'"
The judge offered that the only real similarities were broader cliches that were “outlandish stereotypes and images associated with being a huge, famous, rock star.” Further showing that such themes could not be monopolized by one songwriter, he utilized a study of 17 other popular songs that shared similar rock star themes, including The Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" and Poison's "Rockstar."
READ MORE: 10 Nickelback Songs That Are Really Heavy
Nickelback's "Rockstar" remains one of the band's signature songs and biggest hits. The song hit No. 4 at Mainstream Rock radio and crossed over to hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was featured on the group's All the Right Reasons album. which topped the Billboard 200 Album chart upon its release. ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons lends some spoken word vocals to the track, while the video is filled with celebs including Gene Simmons, Kid Rock, Wayne Gretzky, Ted Nugent, Chuck Liddell, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and more.
In his initial suit from 2020, Johnston claimed that the Nickelback song had lifted "substantial portions" of his song, including "tempo, song form, melodic structure, harmonic structure and lyrical themes." In the judge's ruling, he stated that Johnston had failed to show where Nickelback would have had access to the song. Johnston stated that his band Snowblind Revival had performed at the same venue as Nickelback, but the judge claimed that was not enough proof to show "access." “Johnston has presented no probative evidence that defendants had a reasonable opportunity to hear plaintiff’s work," stated the judge.
Nickelback will be touring this summer in support of their latest album, Get Rollin'. Dates start in June in Quebec City, Quebec in Canada. You can get tickets to catch them live here.