U2 sued for allegedly stealing song for album Achtung Baby

(From left) Guitarist The Edge, Bono and bass guitarist Adam Clayton of U2. The band has been sued by British songwriter-guitarist Paul Rose.
(From left) Guitarist The Edge, Bono and bass guitarist Adam Clayton of U2. The band has been sued by British songwriter-guitarist Paul Rose.PHOTO: REUTERS

A British songwriter-guitarist has sued U2, claiming the band stole one of his works for a song on its blockbuster 1991 album, Achtung Baby.

In a complaint filed on Monday night in the United States District Court in Manhattan, Paul Rose sought at least US$5 million (S$7 million) in damages from U2 lead singer Bono and bandmates The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr, and Island Records.

Rose, who said he has a dozen of his own albums, said the Irish band lifted "signature elements" of his copyrighted song Nae Slappin for its hit song, The Fly. He said this occurred at a time when U2, then arguably the world's most popular rock band, were seeking a "stark departure" from its trademark sound.

He added that he gave a demo tape of Nae Slappin to Island Records in 1989, the same year the label signed U2, and that The Fly incorporated its guitar solo and other elements, including distortion and "industrial-style" percussion.

Rose said ordinary listeners "would reasonably find that the songs are substantially similar" and, at times, so "strikingly similar" that they could not believe U2 came up with The Fly on its own. Both U2 representatives and Island Records' parent, Universal Music Group, did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.

It was not immediately clear why Rose waited more than 25 years to sue.

Well-known artists are often accused of stealing song ideas from other composers, although few cases go to trial. Last June, Led Zeppelin prevailed at a trial over whether it lifted the opening guitar passage to Stairway To Heaven. A jury in March 2015 awarded Marvin Gaye's family US$7.4 million for alleged copyright infringement by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for their hit Blurred Lines. Thicke and Williams have appealed the verdict.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'U2 sued for allegedly stealing song for album Achtung Baby'. Print Edition | Subscribe