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Sadoff, Ferrara and Geluso Serve Expert Testimony in Sam Smith Case

NYU faculty serve as forensic Musicologists

Three Steinhardt faculty members, Lawrence Ferrara, Ron Sadoff and Paul Geluso, served as forensic musicologists on behalf of pop icon Sam Smith and his 2019 hit “Dancing With a Stranger” in a copyright infringement case against Jordan Vincent and his 2015 song of the same name.

The Guardian music editor Ben Beaumont-Thomas details the case in his article "Sam Smith and Normani win copyright lawsuit over "Dancing With a Stranger.”

“Jordan Vincent, Christopher Miranda and Rosco Banlaoi alleged that their song "Dancing With Strangers," which had amassed more than 500,000 streams after being uploaded to Soundcloud in 2015 was infringed upon by Smith and Normani’s song, which shares the same chorus line "dancing with a stranger."

The complainants argued that Smith and Normani’s song appropriated “lyrics, pitch sequence, melodic contour, metric placement of the syllables, rhythm, feel, and structure.” Smith’s legal team had previously described the legal claim as “rambling,” “nonsensical” and “repetitive” and that it “relies on hyperbole and ignores established circuit law.”

The case was heard in The US District Court in Central California on September 6th by Judge Wesley L. Hsu, who ruled that most, if not all, of the plaintiff’s claimed similarities were not protectable by law, and that the phrase “dancing with a stranger” was not unique enough. He pointed out nearly 20 references where the line was used in other previously recorded songs. Contributing a bevy of analyses, reports, rebuttals, and depositions, Ferrara, Sadoff, and Geluso’s testimony was successfully argued by renowned lawyer Peter Anderson. 

This victory follows numerous recent wins by Ed Sheeran against songwriters who had claimed he infringed upon their work. In March 2022, Sheeran won a case against Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue who claimed his song "Shape of You" infringed upon their track "Oh Why." In May 2023 Sheeran won two other lawsuits filed against him over alleged similarities between his song "Thinking Out Loud" and Marvin Gaye’s "Let’s Get It On."

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