White Stripes are facing a potential copyright infringement suit over a song on their breakthrough album ‘WHITE BLOOD CELLS’ which borrows liberally from the classic movie ‘CITIZEN KANE’.
‘The Union Forever’ takes its title and most of its lyrics from the 1941 Orson Welles’ film. According to Rolling Stone, a spokesperson for Warner Bros., who own the distribution rights to ‘Citizen Kane’, the company is “reviewing the matter”.
Any lawsuit would be worth a large amount of money – ‘White Blood Cells’, released in 2001, has sold more than 650,000 copies in the US alone to date.
Copyright attorney Sam Ibrahim said: “I believe that Warner Bros. has a reasonable case against White Stripes. In the event that a court found infringement, Warner Bros. could get an injunction to stop future sales.
“The band could be found liable for millions of dollars in damages, and to keep selling (the album) they would have to pay a royalty. It could be in excess of three or four million dollars.”
The band don’t mention the film in the album’s credits, but frontman Jack White has been open about ‘The Union Forever”s debt to ‘Citizen Kane’.
He told Rolling Stone before the LP’s release, “There’s a song in the film ‘It Can’t Be Love, Because There Is No True Love’ at a party they have in the Everglades. I was trying to play it on guitar, and I went through the film and started writing down things that might rhyme and make sense together.”
Copyright attorney Laurence Pulgram explained that White’s patchwork writing method could actually be the band’s primary defence.
He commented: “White Stripes would argue that its use is transformative, in that it does not merely copy the film in a film, but takes bits and pieces of the film and transforms them into a song; and that this will not reduce sales or otherwise affect the ‘market’ for the film.”
White Stripes’ new album ‘Elephant’ was released on Monday (March 31) and is looking almost certain to give the duo a UK Number One Album when the chart is announced on Sunday (April 6).