Copyright protects a creative work from copying by someone other than the owner or licensee when the copied work is “substantially similar.” Creating a substantially similar copy without permission constitutes copyright infringement.

Billboard Magazine reported on May 17 that the “rap-rock group” Flobots filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube rapper Logan Paul and Maverick Media in U.S. District Court in California. Colorado-based Flobots alleges that Paul’s 2017 song “No Handlebars” “copies prominent, qualitatively and quantitively important, original parts” (article quoting the complaint) of the group’s single “Handlebars,” a 2008 hit song.

Billboard says that Paul’s song and “Handlebars” are similar or identical in:

  • Some lyrics
  • Musical hooks
  • Unique “instrumentation” for the “genre” such as use of viola and trumpet
  • Rhythm
  • String melody and other “significant defining elements”

Named plaintiffs are former and current Flobots members as well as their music publishing company. They reportedly are asking the court for actual damages plus profits “attributable to the copyrighted material” as well as future royalties from the alleged infringement. They also request an injunction in which the court would order the defendants to stop the alleged infringement.

Billboard reports that the defendants have earned over $1 million from the music, “public performances, licensing and sales.”

According to TMZ, Paul previously denied knowing of the Flobots group. If the Flobots do not prove that Paul had heard the song, the copyright infringement case would fail. Billboard received no response from a representative for Paul to its request for comment.

Through the link above, readers may access the Billboard article, which provides video of both songs involved in the dispute.