The estate of early blues musician Armenter “Bo Carter” Chatmon, who died in 1964, has filed a lawsuit against Rod Stewart, Universal Music, and Capitol Records for the inclusion of a song called “Corrina, Corrina” as a bonus track on Stewart’s 2013 album Time. The slightly differently titled “Corrine, Corrina” is a traditional 12-bar blues standard, first recorded by Carter in 1928 and copyrighted in 1932. The song has been covered by many artists, including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, and even Conor Oberst, and presumably Stewart considered it to be part of the public domain — the track is credited to “Traditional” in the album’s notes.
The complaint asserts that Stewart’s song is “nearly identical” to Carter’s original, and the two “contain substantially similar defining compositional elements, including, but not limited to lyrics, melody, rhythm, tempo, meter, key, and title.” Carter’s heirs claim that the song is protected by copyright registrations in 1929 and 1932 and renewed in 1960, and that Stewart “willfully infringed” upon that copyright without permission; they’re seeking statutory damages, actual damages, and an injunction. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the suit makes no mention of the numerous cover versions of the song and indeed never even mentions the word “cover” at all — perhaps because the law provides a compulsory license for covers, meaning no permission is required as long as a set royalty amount is paid.