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Gwen Stefani accused of song-theft by her former hairstylist

By | Published on Monday 16 January 2017

Gwen Stefani

In plagiarism lawsuits, where the song you are claiming another party ripped off isn’t a famous hit, step one of your litigation is demonstrating the circumstances via which the accused plagiariser got a copy of your work. For example, “Gwen Stefani came into my hair salon and heard my song while I shampooed her head”. Yeah, that’ll do.

So Richard Morrill, best known for his stint in early 1990s band LAPD – which later morphed into Korn – is suing Gwen Stefani over her 2014 track ‘Spark The Fire’ which, he says, rips off a song he wrote in 1996 called ‘Who’s Got My Lightah’.

Morrill’s lawsuit, filed last week, claims that the Stefani track – which was produced by that definite non-plagiarist (except that one time) Pharrell Williams – has a chorus with “almost identical” rhythm, melody and background music to that in his song. Though it’s the lyrical similarity that the lawsuit focuses on in particular.

Morrill says that the chorus of his 1996 track went “Who’s got my lightah? Going to find ya – who’s got my lightah? I’m right behind ya”; while a 2009 rework he wrote went “Who’s got my lightah? Who got the fire? Who’s got my lightah? Who’s got my little lightah?” And, in case you wondered, the word ‘fire’ was pronounced ‘fi-ya’.

The Stefani and Williams track? Well, its chorus went “Who got the lighter? Let’s spark the fire – who got the lighter? Let’s spark the fire”. And how was ‘fire’ pronounced in that song? Yep, you guessed it – it was pronounced ‘fi-ya’. Coincidence?

But how, you might now be asking, did Stefani even get her hands on a copy Morrill’s little known track from the mid-1990s? Well, see, some years after he quit LAPD before his bandmates went off to find fame and fortune as Korn, Morrill was a working as a hairstylist in California and in that job provided some quality care for the then No Doubt singer’s hair.

He alleges that while working on Stefani’s hairstyle he played her his song, she said she liked it, so he gave her a CD that had the track on it. Hence the singer had his work sitting at home ready to rip off with Williams nearly two decades later. Perfect.

Morrill is suing Stefani, Williams and Interscope for vicarious copyright infringement and, on top of that, Stefani is also accused of civil theft. He wants a credit on the Stefani track, a share of the profits and some damages. Given Stefani dropped ‘Spark The Fire’ from her third solo album after the somewhat lacklustre response to the single release, I suspect the credit and profit share won’t be worth much, but there’s always lovely damages.