Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams accused of copying 'Spark the Fire' chorus


Few music lovers would draw a parallel between Gwen Stefani's music and that of a band like Korn — but that's exactly what a complaint filed Thursday in Colorado federal court seeks to do.

Richard Morrill is suing Stefani, her company Harajuku Lovers, Pharrell Williams and Interscope Records, claiming "Spark the Fire" infringes on his rights in a 1996 song called "Who's Got My Lightah." (He also created a derivative of his own work in 2009 called "Who's Got My Lighter.")

Morrill is a singer-songwriter who was formerly in the late '80s funk metal band L.A.P.D. — which is now known as Korn — but, in 1997 and 1998, he was a hairstylist in Huntington Beach.

He says Stefani, then the twenty-something lead singer for No Doubt, came into his salon. Morrill claims he played his song for Stefani while he was coloring and styling her hair, she liked it and he gave her a CD containing it.

See photos of Gwen Stefani through the years:

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LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Singer Gwen Stefani performs in concert at the Orpheum Theatre on February 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Singer Gwen Stefani attends a party hosted by Chasing Fireflies to introduce her Harajuku Lovers children's collection at Duff's Cakemix on September 24, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Chasing Fireflies)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11: Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs during Riot Fest Chicago 2015 at Douglas Park on September 11, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns)
DEL MAR, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs during 2015 KAABOO Del Mar at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on September 18, 2015 in Del Mar, California. (Photo by Christopher Victorio/WireImage for KAABOO Del Mar via imageSPACE)
THE VOICE -- 'Season 9 Press Junket' -- Pictured: (l-r) Pharrell Williams, Adam Levine, Carson Daly, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 10: Singer Gwen Stefani attends Harajuku Lovers #PopElectric High Tea at The Ebell Club of Los Angeles on July 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for BeautyCon)
THE VOICE -- 'Blind Auditions' -- Pictured: Gwen Stefani -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - MAY 31: Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs during the Bottle Rock Napa Valley Music Festival at Napa Valley Expo on May 31, 2015 in Napa, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 16: Musicians Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal of No Doubt perform at An Evening with Women benefiting the Los Angeles LGBT Center at the Hollywood Palladium on May 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for LOS ANGELES LGBT CENTER)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 08: Singer Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs during Rock in Rio USA at the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds on May 8, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage)
NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES - MAY 01: Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs on stage during day 5 of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 1, 2015 in New Orleans, United States. (Photo by Edu Hawkins/Redferns via Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 12: Singer/songwriter Gwen Stefani (L) and actress Demi Moore attend VH1's 'Barely Famous' premiere screening and party at The London Hotel on March 12, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for VH1)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Singer Gwen Stefani arrives at the 57th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
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Nearly two decades later, Morrill is claiming that Stefani and Williams copied the chorus from his song when writing "Spark the Fire."

He says he discovered the infringement when his friend saw Stefani and Williams perform the song on The Voice in 2014 and sent him a link to a video of the show.

Morrill claims the lyrics to the chorus are substantially similar to his own. His attorney Alan Blakley describes the similarity as follows.

First, regarding Morrill's 1996 song: "The lyrics of the chorus of 'Who's Got My Lightah' were: 'Who's got my lightah? Going to find ya. Who's got my lightah? I'm right behind ya. Who's got my lightah? I'm going to find ya. Give it back, give it back.'"

Second, regarding Morrill's 2009 derivative song: "The lyrics of the chorus of 'Who's Got My Lighter' were: 'Who's got my lightah? Who got the fire? Who's got my lightah? Who's got my little lightah?' Fire is pronounced 'fi-ya.'"

Third, regarding the song by Stefani and Williams: "The lyrics to the chorus of 'Spark the Fire' are: 'Who got the lighter? Let's spark the fire. Who got the lighter? Let's spark the fire.' This is repeated once more. Fire is pronounced 'fi-ya.'"

The suit also claims the rhythm, melody and background music in the chorus is "almost identical" to Morrill's, and the songs are sung in the same key.

The chorus is first sung in Stefani's song about 30 seconds into the video below.

In Morrill's L.A.P.D. song below, the chorus is first sung at about 58 seconds in.

Morrill is suing all the defendants for direct and contributory copyright infringement, Williams and Interscope for vicarious copyright infringement and Stefani for civil theft. He's seeking damages, disgorgement of profits from the song, an injunction and a declaration that his copyrights were infringed. (Read the complaint in full here.)

Both Stefani and Williams declined to comment on the suit.

Williams and Robin Thicke are currently appealing the 2015 jury verdict against them in a copyright dispute with Marvin Gaye's heirs "Blurred Lines."


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