Mariah Carey hit with $20m lawsuit over 1994 holiday classic: ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’

Singer Mariah Carey is being sued for a cool $20 million for copyright infringement and misappropriation over her iconic 1994 Christmas classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

The lawsuit was filed in New Orleans federal court against the five-time Grammy winner on Friday by artist Andy Stone who allegedly recorded a song with the same title five years earlier. Stone is suing Carey, her co-writer, Walter Afanasieff, and Sony Music Entertainment, according to TMZ.

Stone performs under the name Vince Vance with the country-pop band Vince Vance & the Valiants. He accused the defendants of having illegally exploited his “popularity and unique style,” causing confusion by recording the newer song without his permission.

The suit seems tenuous as Carey’s and Stone’s songs have different lyrics and melodies. It’s also not uncommon for musical artists to have similar, or in some cases, identical song titles.

According to Pamela Koslyn, a Los Angeles attorney specializing in music and intellectual property rights, the United States Copyright Office lists 177 entries on its website under the title “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Koslyn goes on to note that it would be a different situation if all of the lyrics were “substantially similar” to Carey’s version.

“Song titles aren’t entitled to copyright protection,” she asserted, according to Deadline. “That’s why there are 177 works using the same title. An even more popular title is ‘My Baby,’ which has 4860 works registered with the Copyright Office. And that doesn’t even count ‘common law’ (unregistered) works using the same title.”

(Video Credit: Mariah Carey)

Carey’s version of the song first appeared on her album “Merry Christmas,” and has become a seasonal classic on radio and in retail shopping environments during the holiday season. It has also topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart every year since 2019 and is one of the best-known Christmas songs of all time.

Her song topped the charts in 26 countries and reportedly earned a whopping $60 million in royalties by 2017, according to The Economist.

TMZ reported that the song recently broke the billion streams plateau and is putting millions of dollars in Carey’s pocket annually.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” was Carey’s 19th No. 1 song, which is one fewer than the Beatles had. With sales of over 16 million copies worldwide, the song is now the best-selling holiday song by a female artist and one of the best-selling singles in music history.

In a recent memoir, Carey admitted to composing “most of the song on a cheap little Casio keyboard,” according to the BBC.

Stone claimed his song had received “extensive airplay” during the 1993 Christmas season, and also appeared on Billboard charts. The track featured lead vocals from Lisa Burgess Stewart, otherwise known as Lisa Layne.

(Video Credit: Vince Vance & the Valiants)

Details on the suit are thin and it is not clear when Stone first learned of Carey’s song or why he waited 28 years to sue over it.

His complaint, Stone v Carey et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 22-01616, reportedly states that Stone’s attorneys first contacted the defendants in April 2021 about their alleged unauthorized use, but were “unable to come to any agreement.”

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