Avril Song Theft Expands

(PR) Songwriters Tommy Dunbar and James Gangwer have filed suit against pop princess Avril Lavigne and others, alleging that her smash hit song “Girlfriend” is copied from their song “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” first performed and recorded by the Bay Area new wave power pop quartet The Rubinoos of which Dunbar was a founding member.

The suit, Dunbar, et al. v. Gottwald, et al., filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, and amended today to add new allegations and parties, charged Lavigne, her co-writer Luke Gottwald and others with copyright infringement and seeks damages for copying the plaintiffs’ song without permission. United States Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil has set a first court date in the case for August 28th in Oakland.

“Girlfriend,” was featured as the first single off Lavigne’s platinum-selling album The Best Damn Thing and is a worldwide smash hit, have gone to Number One on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. Lavigne has also recorded the song in Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, French, German, Italian and Portuguese with concurrent international chart success.

“While it's true that we filed suit some time ago, we hesitated to go public to save Avril and her handlers any embarrassment,” Tommy Dunbar said. “We learned over the July 4th holiday that her management and spin doctors have apparently decided to preempt things with their revelation of the lawsuit.”

Both critics and fans have noted the similarities between the two songs since the release of “Girlfriend” by RCA Records in April of this year. Writing for TV Guide, Ken Fox noted in an article entitled “A Beautiful Fraud” that the Lavigne song was “a total ripoff of the Rubinoos’ classic 1979 single” and suggested that the songwriters call and ask for ‘their song back.’”

Similarly, Billboard carried a review of The Best Damn Thing by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, from All Music Guide in which he asserted that the chorus of “Girlfriend“ is “a total lift from the Rubinoos’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.’” Fan sites, bloggers and YouTube postings have also made the comparison, some turning Lavigne/Rubinoos comparisons into seamless mash-up style mixes. [ok in the interest of fairness, Erlewine has from time to time draw some ludicrous comparisons]

“We are not so naïve as it to chalk the matter up to some sort of cosmic coincidence,” Dunbar said. “When Avril’s version came out, we were deluged with calls and notes from friends and fans congratulating us on the logical assumption we would be enjoying the fruits of our efforts based on the commercial success she enjoyed with it. The lyric, the meter, the rhythm—they’re identical. When no one from Avril’s side came to us—not even to offer an explanation or apology—we brought the matter to her camp's attention, hoping to avoid hanging out the ‘dirty laundry,' so to speak.”

“Before our clients filed suit, we consulted one of the country's top musicologists,” said lawyer Nick Carlin, who represents Dunbar and Gangwer. “She confirmed that the songs have, in her words, a ‘high degree of similarity.’ We shared that opinion with Ms. Lavigne’s representatives. It didn’t seem to make any difference to them.”

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