By Hayden Wright
A U.S. District Court judge has determined that U2 did not violate copyright laws with their song “The Fly” from the 1991 album Achtung Baby single.
English musician Paul Rose had filed suit against U2, claiming his song “Nae Slappin” inspired a 12-second segment of “The Fly” and sought damages from U2 and Universal Music Group. The judge dismissed the case, noting that similarities between “The Fly” and “Nae Slappin” were not “qualitatively significant,” reports Billboard.
In his suit, Rose claimed he sent a demo tape to UMG between 1989 and the release of Achtung Baby. The experimental musician said the guitar line, bass line and percussion U2 used in “The Fly” mimicked his demo, as did the band’s chord shifts from E7 to A7. More broadly, he claimed “The Fly” shares a “dimension of sound” with “Nae Slappin.”
Judge Denise Cote determined that only six percent of Rose’s track shares elements with the U2 song. That “fragment,” she wrote, bears little significance to “The Fly” as a whole.
“The fragment appears only once near the beginning of the recording; it is not repeated,” she wrote. “It is one of multiple, at times seemingly random, guitar lines and styles strung together over the course of the composition.”
The U2 song, Cote wrote, does not “recreate the notes, sounds, or rhythm of [Rose’s] work in a way that would permit a finding that the copying was sufficiently close to find infringement under the fragmented literal similarity doctrine.”
Beyond the close examination of the instrumental section, the judge found Rose’s other complaints were “too vague to describe protectable expression.”