The Song: George Harrison “My Sweet Lord” (1970)
The Plaintiff: Bright Tunes Music, publisher of “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons.
The Case: Former Beatles guitarist George Harrison had a global hit on his hands in 1970 with this simple homage to spirituality in general and Hinduism in particular. The only problem being the main verse bore a striking resemblance to the oldies standard “He’s So Fine” by girl-group The Chiffons and written by Ronald Mack. Mack’s publisher, Bright Tunes Music, filed suit in 1971 though the trial didn’t start until 1976 and complications resulted in it not being completely resolved until 1998.
The Judgment: Though the initial ruling was in the plaintiff’s favor with the judgment that Harrison should pay $1,599,987, this was later reduced to $587,000. However, the cases’ expensive long drawn out trial and substantial judgment had the result that later copyright infringement cases were usually settled quickly and preferably out of court.