Federal Appeals Court Rejects Lawsuit Claiming Nickelback’s ‘Rockstar’ Was Copied, Citing Use of Rockstar Clichés

A federal appeals court in Texas has dismissed a copyright lawsuit against the band Nickelback, ruling that they cannot be sued for using “clichés” and singing about being a rockstar. The lawsuit claimed that the band’s hit song “Rockstar” from their 2005 album “All the Right Reasons” was a rip-off of an earlier song called “Rock Star.” However, the court determined that the songs were not similar enough for the lawsuit to proceed.

The lead singer of Texas band Snowblind Revival, Kirk Johnston, filed the lawsuit in May 2020, alleging that Nickelback had stolen substantial portions of his song, including the tempo, melodic structure, and lyrical themes. He argued that the two songs had similar lyrics about rock star lifestyles, making money, and having famous friends. However, the court disagreed, stating that these themes and lyrics are common in the rock genre and not unique to Johnston’s song.

In its ruling, the appeals court also upheld the finding that there was no evidence that Nickelback members, including lead vocalist Chad Kroeger, had ever heard Johnston’s earlier song. Access to the original work is a crucial element in a copyright lawsuit, and without proof of access, the accuser must demonstrate that the two songs are virtually identical. Johnston’s arguments about potential connections between the bands or UMG executives attending Snowblind Revival shows were deemed speculative and unsupported by the evidence.

The court’s decision affirms a Judge’s ruling from last year that threw out the case, stating that the similarities between the songs were merely “outlandish stereotypes and images associated with being a huge, famous rock star.” The judge noted that the vivid details in Nickelback’s lyrics distinguished it from Johnston’s song.

“Rockstar” was a commercial success for Nickelback, reaching No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 2007 and spending nearly a year on the chart. Despite its popularity, the song has faced criticism and was named the second-worst song ever written by Buzzfeed in 2012.

With the appeals court’s decision, the copyright lawsuit against Nickelback has come to a close, unless the case is taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is highly unlikely. Attorneys for both sides have not provided immediate comments on the ruling.

It is important to note that this article has been rewritten in AP News Style and does not quote any news organizations.