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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Spencer Davis Group Beats Another ‘Gimme Some Lovin” Copyright Suit

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A pair of Tennessee songwriters say the bass riff to the iconic 1966 hit was lifted from their 1965 song.

Spencer Davis Group, Spencer Davis, Peter

From L-R: Spencer Davis, Peter York, Steve Winwood, Muff Winwood of Spencer Davis Group.
Cyrus Andrews/Michael Ochs Archives/GI

Another federal court has rejected accusations that the Spencer Davis Group ripped off its 1966 hit “Gimme Some Lovin” from an earlier song, two years after a federal appeals judge complained that such an outcome was a “grave injustice.”

In a decision issued Tuesday, Judge William L. Campbell tossed out a lawsuit that claimed the late Spencer Davis infringed the copyright to “Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” a song written in 1965 by Homer Banks and Willia Dean Parker.

The two tracks feature a similar bass riff, and a 1990 book quotes Davis saying he had based “Gimme” off of “Lot of Love.” But Judge Campbell said the Memphis duo had failed to submit their song to the U.S. Copyright Office at the time as required, meaning they could not sue.

“Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” written in 1965, didn’t make waves at the time, but it was later covered by many others, including The Band and Tom Jones. “Gimme Some Lovin’” was released a year later to far more commercial success, reaching No. 2 on the UK charts and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the years since, the song has been heavily featured in movies, television and advertisements.

More than five decades later, a copyright lawsuit against Davis, Winwood and others accused them of “knowingly incorporating” the bass riff from “Lot of Love” into “Gimme.” Filed by Banks’ widow and Parker, it pointed to the fact that the similarities had been noted by numerous music commentators.

A federal appeals court rejected the case in 2019, ruling that there was no evidence that anyone copied the song. The court refused to admit several pieces of evidence, including an excerpt from the 1990 book Rock Lives: Profiles and Interviews, which included quotes from Winwood talking about using the earlier song.

The ruling, by a 2-1 vote, came with scathing dissent from Judge Bernice Donald, who said the songs were “strikingly similar” and cited the fact that many British bands in the 1960s had been “inspired by the works of black R&B artists.”

“There is a fine line between inspiration and infringement, and evidence in the record below supports a finding that the defendants crossed this line,” the judge wrote. “Regrettably, the majority has denied plaintiffs their deserved opportunity to present their case to a jury, which is a grave injustice.”

Months before that ruling was issued, a new, separate case was filed against only Spencer, who had not participated in the earlier case. It was this lawsuit that was dismissed this week.

Under the version of copyright law that existed in 1966, Banks and Parker were required to file a so-called deposit copy of their song at the Copyright Office. In Tuesday’s ruling, Judge Campbell said they had clearly failed to do so.

“The requisite deposit has not been made,” the judge wrote. “Because there is no evidence that Plaintiffs or anyone else submitted deposit copies of ‘Ain’t That a Lot of Lovin’’ as either a published or unpublished work the infringement suit is barred.”

An attorney for Banks’ widow and Parker declined to comment on Friday. An attorney for the late Davis, who passed away last year, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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