Mariah Carey is being sued for copyright infringement related to her smash single “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Andy Stone, the man who wrote another Christmas hit with the same title. But his fight for at least $20 million in damages is likely an uphill battle, according to one entertainment attorney.
Stone, who performs under the name Vince Vance, alleges that Carey’s song — which has gone platinum multiple times all over the world — is “a derivative work based” on a Christmas song of the same name he wrote and recorded in 1989. His attorney reached out to the defendants in December 2021, the lawsuit said, but was “unable to come to any agreement” about the continued publication of Carey’s 1994 song.
The Vince Vance & the Valiants version of “All I Want” received “extensive airplay during the 1993 Christmas season” and “began making appearances on the Billboard charts” that year, said the lawsuit, which was obtained by The Times. What Stone is claiming to be the relationship between the two songs is unclear. Carey’s tune is an upbeat pop number, while Stone’s is a low-key country song.
Stone’s lawsuit says the performer “personally requested” that Carey cease and desist publication of her song. It’s unclear when Stone became aware of Carey’s record, which has been streamed more than 1 billion times.
A Carey representative did not respond immediately to a request for comment Monday.
Stone “has major hurdles in the way of winning any damages,” attorney Michael Peters of Beverly Hills-based Ramo Law told The Times via email Monday.
“Upon listening to the two songs at issue, any layperson (or juror) can probably tell that a comparison of the music and lyrics does not bode well for any damages being awarded to Stone,” said Peters, who specializes in entertainment law.
The use of “generic tropes of Christmas tradition (e.g. presents, mistletoe, wish lists, etc.) are also not going to be very useful to Stone in this suit,” Peters said, as those will likely be found to be scene a faire — or a “scene that must be done” — in context of a Christmas song. Also, titles cannot be copyrighted.
The rest, he said, depends on “how the jury receives the parties’ respective musicologists’ analysis and testimony if this goes as far as trial.”
Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was co-written by the singer and Walter Afanasieff, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. Since its release on the album “Merry Christmas” in October 1994, Carey’s single has earned more than $60 million, though it didn’t hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts until 2019, a quarter-century after its release.
“I started by sitting at the piano and plucking out notes. That’s not typical — usually, I’ll sing a melody to a piano player, and they’ll play the chords that I’m hearing. But in this case, I was just sitting there, coming up with this melody, in a dark house with a Christmas tree,” Carey told The Times in December 2020. “It kind of popped out: [sings] All I want for Christmas ... I can’t tell you how that melody came to me. I really look at it as a gift.”
She said she brought the melody to Afanasieff and the two wrote the bridge together.
“We wanted it to feel classic. I didn’t want it to feel ’90s. It probably feels ’90s now to people who are nostalgic about the ’90s. But in the ’90s, it was something different,” she said in 2020.
Vince Vance and the Valiants’ ”All I Want for Christmas Is You” features vocals by country singer Lisa Burgess Stewart, who now records as Lisa Layne. Country-pop star Kelly Clarkson released a cover of the tune in 2020.