Gwen Stefani has worked a gnarly legal entanglement out of her hair.
“Hollaback Girl” singer Stefani and Pharrell Williams have been cleared in a copyright infringement claim by a man who said he had styled Stefani’s hair, with a judge finding Tuesday that the 2014 tune “Spark the Fire” did not infringe on the plaintiffs’ work.
Richard Morrill filed suit in January 2017, saying that he had played his song “Who’s Got My Lightah” for Stefani while styling her hair. According to the suit, Stefani “commented that she liked it and accepted Richard’s offer of a CD with ‘Who’s Got My Lightah’ on it.”
Lo and behold, the lawsuit claimed, Stefani’s “Spark the Fire” was released in 2014, and the song bears remarkable similarities to Morrill’s. To wit, the suit claimed, the lyrics to “Who’s Got My Lightah” read, “Who’s got my lightah? Who got the fire? Who’s got my lightah? Who’s got my little lightah?” with “fire” pronounced “fi-ya,” while those of “Spark the Fire” read, “Who got the lighter? Let’s spark the fire. Who got the lighter? Let’s spark the fire” — again, with “fire” pronounced “fi-ya.”
However, in an order handed down Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee saw things otherwise, granting Stefani and the other defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
In the order, Gee found that Morrill couldn’t prove that “Spark the Fire” infringed on either his 1996 song “Who’s Got My Lightah” or his 2009 derivative work, “Who’s Got My Lighter.”
“Based on the undisputed evidence, Morrill cannot show substantial similarity because he cannot satisfy the extrinsic test for either of the Protected Songs,” the order reads.
“In light of the foregoing, the Court: 1. GRANTS Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Morrill’s claim for direct copyright infringement of 1996 Lightah and 2009 Lighter; and 2. GRANTS Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Morrill’s claims for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement,” the order adds.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.