Carrie Underwood has been accused of plagiarizing, and is facing a lawsuit from singer Heidi Merrill that claims the American Idol winner’s song “Game On” was straight up lifted from a similar song by Merrill — and even has the exact same name.
Merrill, a Nebraska native, rose to internet fame in 2015 with her song “Cornhusker Strong,” a sports anthem that raised her profile. Two years later, she tried to increase her brand by putting the song and video for “Game On” on YouTube.
Merrill, who is now living in Southern California as she pursues her music career, claims that in August 2017, nearly six months after she posted the “Game On” video online, she met with Mark Bright, one of Underwood’s producers. The two chatted at a Nashville event, where Merrill is alleged to have asked Bright if Underwood would be interested in a new song for the 2018 season of Sunday Night Football, which Underwood has performed for since 2013.
Merrill says she sent “Game On” to Bright, but he passed. However, just over a year later, Underwood debuted her own song, also called “Game On,” on the NFL broadcast.
Merrill’s plagiarism suit names not only Underwood and Bright, but also the NFL and NBC, the broadcaster of Sunday Night Football. Also named as co-defendants are music publishers Sony Corp. and Warner Music Group. Merrill’s suit says that Underwood’s “Game On” is “substantially — even strikingly — similar, if not identical” to her 2017 song of the same name.
Lawyer Tim Foster, on behalf of Merrill and her song’s co-writers, said that his team attempted to reach out to Underwood’s camp to resolve the situation but were summarily rebuffed.
“Ms. Underwood recorded a song that was substantially similar to the original song submitted through her producer, without giving credit or compensation of any kind to the original songwriters,” Foster told Reuters. “We assume that there will be significant damages.”
The case, Merrill et al v. Underwood et al, was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
So far, Underwood’s camp has not commented on the situation.
Underwood has previously been accused of lifting work from other songwriters. Songwriters Ron McNeill and Georgia Lyons filed a lawsuit alleging that Underwood failed to give them writing credit on her hit “Something in the Water.” Similarly to the “Game On” situation, McNeill and Lyons allege that they got the song to Underwood’s people through a proxy in Nashville.
And in 2016, Underwood and fellow country artist Brad Paisley were sued by songwriter Amy Bowen, who claimed that Paisley’s duet with Underwood, “Remind Me,” featured elements purloined from a song of the same name that Bowen had written. The case was resolved in Paisley and Underwood’s favor, with the former even mocking his accusers in his song “High Life” from his 2014 album, Moonshine in the Trunk.
According to Forbes, Underwood has sold more records than any other winner of American Idol, with over 15 million records to her credit.
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