Zayn Malik sued for alleged copyright infringement over ‘Better’
British pop star and former One Direction member Zayn Malik has been hit with a lawsuit for alleged copyright infringement on his hit Better.
The track, which has been streamed over 154 million times on Spotify alone, appeared on his album Nobody is Listening, which was released in 2021.
A complaint filed with the US District Court for the Central District of California on Wednesday (September 20) alleges that Zayn’s Better was the product of “blatant copying” of a song written and performed by California-based musician and songwriter Patrick Simmons, who goes by the stage name Havyn. (Not to be confused with Patrick Simmons of Doobie Brothers fame.)
The suit alleges that Better copied “numerous significant compositional elements” of Somebody Tonight, a track that Simmons released in 2018.
“Without [that] blatant copying, Zayn’s Better would never have come to exist in its present form or become a massive worldwide success,” states the complaint, obtained by MBW and which can be read in full here.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Simmons’ company, Formal Entertainment LLC, names as defendants Zayn, whose real name is Zain Malik, as well as Sony Music Entertainment, which owns RCA Records, the label that released Better in 2020, and five people credited as songwriters on Better: David Debrandon Brown (aka Lucky Daye), Dustin Bowie, Michael McGregor, Cole Citrenbaum and Philip von Boch Scully, who is also listed as the song’s producer.
MBW has reached out to Sony Music for comment.
According to the complaint, in the spring of 2020, Simmons hired music promotion agency Modern Music Marketing (MMM) to promote his track People Change. However, a representative at the company, Jonah Rindner, told Simmons that MMM would promote Somebody Tonight free of charge, as the company considered this to be Simmons’ best work.
The following October, the complaint alleges, Simmons found out through Rindner that MMM also promoted Zayn’s Better, which had been released the previous month.
“Simmons asked Rindner if [Better] sounded familiar, to which Rindner responded, ‘Kind of.’ Having been informed that MMM ‘worked’ Zayn’s Better, and knowing that MMM had explicitly discussed Somebody Tonight, Simmons asked Rindner point blank: ‘Did [Zayn] base [Better] off of my Somebody Tonight?’ and Rindner responded ‘How would I know,’” the complaint states.
The complaint says that Simmons sent a cease and desist letter to Sony in December of 2020, and the company “responded to the cease and desist letter expressly denying any infringement claims relating to the infringing work.”
Better was the first single off Zayn’s Nobody Is Listening, his third solo album following his departure from One Direction. The track was a moderate hit, reaching No.89 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No.58 on the UK singles charts. The official video has 44 million views on YouTube.
Simmons, performing as Havyn, has had moderate success as a musician. As of last count, Somebody Tonight had 132,000 streams on Spotify, making it his second most popular track after People Change, with 358,000 streams.
You can hear the two tracks below:
The complaint alleges that Better is “so similar to Somebody Tonight that the ordinary observer would easily determine that the songs sound the same in their essential compositional and other elements.”
The complaint adds: “Better and Somebody Tonight contain essential compositional elements so similar as to evidence the conscious copying of one in pursuit of the creation of the other. Resulting from this unlawful copying are two songs so similar that the ordinary observer can only conclude that Better would not exist but for the copying of Somebody Tonight.”
The complaint seeks an award of damages, as well as profits that the defendants made from Better.
“Better and Somebody Tonight contain essential compositional elements so similar as to evidence the conscious copying of one in pursuit of the creation of the other.”
Legal complaint filed on behalf of Patrick Simmons
As a member of One Direction, Zayn has been involved in prior legal disputes.
In 2019, all five of the original members of One Direction, along with Universal Music Publishing, EMI Music Publishing and Sony Music Entertainment UK, were sued in the UK’s High Court by songwriter David Lewis Smith over One Direction’s 2014 track Night Changes.
Smith alleged that Night Changes had infringed on his own work. He dropped that lawsuit in 2019.
In 2012, One Direction was sued over the band’s name, by a US-based musical act that also went by One Direction. The two bands eventually came to a settlement, with the lesser-known One Direction changing its name to Uncharted Shores.Music Business Worldwide