A songwriter by the name of Ernest Lee Straughter won a ruling from a California federal judge last month after alleging that "Burn" was copied from his 1998 song "The Reasons Why." The case is now on track to go before a jury. Previously, a musicologist determined that there was enough similarity between the two songs for Straughter's allegations to have some merit.
It's "Burn"'s instrumental track, and not the lyrics, that is said to have used elements of Straughter's work.
Usher, Jermaine Dupri, EMI April Music, Sony Music, Arista Records and others are all listed as defendants in the case, according to The Hollywood Reporter. For Straughter to win the suit, a jury must decide both that there is substantial similarity between the songs and that Usher and his team had access to the plaintiff's work.
"The Reason's Why" was released by the group Reel Tight in 1998 as "No More Pain" from their album Back to the Real. For a single week, the album reached 197 on the Billboard Top 200, which Judge Christina Snyder ruled was evidence of "wide dissemination," making it possible that the defendants could have heard the song. Reel Tight was also discovered by Warren G, a friend to some of the defendants.
Usher's lawyer's argue that these connections are bogus, and are currently trying to get the case dismissed.
“The fact that the song had virtually no radio airplay forecloses any inference that it was widely disseminated, let alone remotely popular,” the defendants said.
If Judge Snyder rejects their argument, it will be up to a jury to hear both songs and decide for themselves.
(Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)