The line between inspiration and infringement may be blurred again for another award-winning hit song. Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have just been hit with a lawsuit over their 2014 collaboration “Uptown Funk.”
The complaint, obtained by Pitchfork, was filed by the Minneapolis electro-funk band Collage. They claim that Ronson and Mars’ single “is an obvious, strikingly and/or substantially similar copy” of Collage’s 1983 single “Young Girls.” The complaint also notes that Ronson and Mars have talked about how “Uptown Funk” was influenced by early 1980s Minneapolis electro-funk soul music. Collage are seeking damages and profits.
Says the complaint:
Upon information and belief, many of the main instrumental attributes and themes of “Uptown Funk” are deliberately and clearly copied from “Young Girls,” including, but not limited to, the distinct funky specifically noted and timed consistent guitar riffs present throughout the compositions, virtually if not identical bass notes and sequence, rhythm, structure, crescendo of horns and synthesizers rendering the compositions almost indistinguishable if played over each other and strikingly similar if played in consecutively.
Trinidad James, Jeff Bhasker, Devon Gallaspy, Phillip Lawrence, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner/Chappell Music, Atlantic Records, RCA Records and others are listed alongside Mars and Ronson in the lawsuit. Only one member of Collage, Larry White, is alive. The estates of two other members, Grady Wilkins and Lee Peters, are also listed as plaintiffs.
Listen to Collage’s “Young Girls” here:
Compared to “Uptown Funk” here:
In 2014, Mars/Ronson won a Grammy Award for the track, which has sold more than 6 million copies and garnered almost 2 billion YouTube views. Their lawsuit comes a little over a year after Marvin Gaye’s family won their copyright infringement lawsuit against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke over their hit song “Blurred Lines.” Following their victory, many speculated that it would set a huge precedent regarding musical inspiration v. sampling, and similiar cases would follow.
Mars, whose real name in Peter Gene Hernandez, and Ronson have battled several accusations of copyright infringement since “Uptown Funk” hit the airwaves. Earlier this year, 1980s female rap group The Sequence claimed that Mars used their 1979 “Funk You Up” as inspiration for their massive hit. However, no lawsuit has been formally filed.