Damages resulting from the plagiarism court case
After 20 years, eventually the judge awarded the song to me… and the money that had been taken for My Sweet Lord. So I suddenly end up with He’s So Fine!
Having lost the court case alleging plagiarism, George Harrison was liable for damages. The judge was responsible for deciding the amount; he began by determining the income generated by My Sweet Lord, and how much of that song was derived from He’s So Fine.
Four main sources of revenue were considered: mechanical royalties (the amount paid to a song’s publisher by a record company to release it); performance royalties (revenue derived from broadcasting); sheet music and folio sales; and profits from Apple Records.
Performance royalties and sheet music sales were determined at $359,794 and $67,675 respectively, according to accounting records. The other amounts were harder to ascertain.
Mechanical royalties were established at $260,103, including single and related album sales. However, the judge noted that the song’s popularity would have effectively increased revenue for the other compositions on the All Things Must Pass album, and for the single’s b-side, Isn’t It A Pity.
The court looked closely at the amount of North American radio play that each song on the album had received. Of the 22 songs, only nine had been played, and My Sweet Lord had represented 70% of the album’s total airplay. The judge therefore ruled that 70% of mechanical royalties from the single, and 50% from those for All Things Must Pass, were attributable to My Sweet Lord.
The compilation The Best Of George Harrison was also a factor. The judge eventually determined that the gross earnings attributable to My Sweet Lord for the single amounted to $54,526; $588,188 for the album All Things Must Pass; and $6,887 from The Best Of George Harrison. This amounted to a total of $646,601 in the USA and Canada.
A further consideration was profits for Apple generated from My Sweet Lord. Using a similar formula as before for the single and two albums, the judge found the resultant earnings were $130,629 from the single; $925,731 from All Things Must Pass; and $21,598 from The Best Of George Harrison.
The total gross earnings for My Sweet Lord were determined by the court as $2,152,028. This was reduced to $2,133,316 after agent’s fees were considered.
Since the plagiarism had been subconscious (unintentional), and Harrison had added original elements to the song, he was not liable to pay the full amount to Bright Tunes. The judge decreed that 3/4 of the song’s success was due to to the plagiarised elements, with a further quarter due to Harrison’s contributions. A sum of $1,599,987 was settled upon as the amount earned by My Sweet Lord which could be attributed to He’s So Fine.