TORONTO: Canadian pop star Justin Bieber and the co-writers of his 2015 smash hit Sorry are being sued for allegedly stealing a vocal riff from another artist who said she used it on her own song a year earlier. In a complaint made public on Thursday, Casey Dienel, an indie artist who performs under the name of White Hinterland, accused Bieber of infringing her copyright to the song Ring the Bell by using a “virtually identical” riff without permission.
Among the other defendants are the producer Skrillex and Vivendi’s Universal Music Group. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Nashville. Spokespeople for Bieber, Skrillex and Universal had no immediate comment or did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Dienel said Sorry, which appears on Bieber’s album Purpose and has more than 1.42 billion YouTube views, adopted the specific and unique characteristics of the female vocal riff from her song, sampling it for the first eight seconds of Sorry and several times thereafter.
She said even The New York Times Magazine noted the riff’s distinctiveness, when it praised Bieber’s song for its “cooing arpeggio that feels like a gentle breeze on your brain” in a March 13 article titled ‘25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going’. Bieber’s song ranked number one.
Dienel also said she reached out to Bieber to discuss a resolution, but he ignored her claims and refused to talk. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, including from profits generated by Sorry. Dienel’s Ring the Bell appeared on White Hinterland’s album Baby.