Carey is named in the suit along with her co-writer Walter Afanasieff and the music company, Sony.
The court documents describe Vance as a self-employed artist who in 1989 co-wrote a song titled “All I Want for Christmas is You” and recorded it in a studio in Nashville. It was later released and “receiving extensive airplay during the 1993 Christmas season … began making appearances on the Billboard Music Charts.”
Carey’s song with an identical name, but not identical lyrics and music, was released in 1994 on her album “Merry Christmas.” The lawsuit contends that Carey and the other defendants “never sought or obtained permission” from Vance to use, reproduce or distribute the song and accuse them of infringing his copyright.
Carey has yet to publicly comment on the lawsuit. Sony Music did not immediately respond to a request for comment early on Saturday.
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Carey’s song has become a Christmas classic and a staple of the holiday charts each year, making it unclear why the lawsuit has only now been filed.
Copyright does not generally extend to song titles alone, with dozens of registered entries for “All I Want for Christmas is You” at the US Copyright Office as of Saturday.
The court documents say Vance’s lawyers initially made contact with Carey and others in April 2021 and followed up with a letter in December. “Even after communicating the concerns with Defendants, Plaintiff was unable to come to any agreement over usage of the ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’,” the suit said.
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Carey, known for musical hits such as “Fantasy” and “Hero,” was inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame this year, which on its website called her part of “an elite group of songwriters” and said she had “written or co -written 18 of her 19 number one songs on the Billboard Hot 100.”
She had her first No. 1 hit in the United States with “Vision of Love” in 1990 and went on to win 5 Grammy Awards, 3 Guinness World Record titles and an Ivor Novello Award with her distinct 5 octave style earning her global stardom for her musical performances.
Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” remains wildly popular, streaming more than 1 billion times on music service Spotify and for some is an unofficial announcement of the start of the Christmas season. But others say it has become overplayed and irritating, with one Texas bar last year banning the playing of the song before Dec. 1 and thereafter allowing it to be played only “one time a night.”