Beach Boys' label wants writing credit and royalties for Katy Perry's 'California Gurls'—but they're not suing yet

beach-boys-vs-katy-perryImage Credit: Emma Summerton; Chris Miller/Camera Press/Retna LtdCalifornia Boys and Gurls—can’t they all get along? The New York Post is reporting that the Beach Boys’ reps are threatening to sue Katy Perry for including the line ” in her summer-owning, booby-cream-shooting no. 1 hit “California Gurls.” Turns out, it’s not true—at least, not yet.

A source is quoted in today’s Post saying that the Boys’ label Rondor has sent a letter to Perry’s label Capitol demanding that Mike Love and Brian Wilson be given a writing credit on her song, as well as royalties, for its appropriation of the line “I wish they all could be California girls,” from their own 1965 classic of the same title.

Wilson’s rep told them, “Rondor owns the track and called Brian and Mike, saying they were going to complain. Brian likes Katy’s record and doesn’t know where the situation stands.” Love’s rep said, “Mike and Brian wrote the song . . . but any legal action is up to Rondor.”

When reached by EW, a Rondor spokesperson explained the label’s current stance: “In regard to the various rumors circulating, we would like to make it clear that there is no lawsuit against the writers or publishers of ‘California Gurls.’ We have established diminutive claim. It is up to the six writers and various publishers of ‘California Gurls’ to decide whether they honor the claim or not.”

“Using the words or melody in a new song taken from an original work is not appropriate under any circumstances, particularly one as well known and iconic as ‘California Girls.’ Rondor Music, who publishes the works of Brian Wilson and Mike Love, is committed to protecting the rights of its artists and songwriters, and with the support of the writers, that is exactly what we are doing.”

Wilson, the band’s mercurial, legendary frontman does appear to be a genuine fan of the song; he told the LA Times on July 20, “I love her vocal. She sounds very clear and energetic . . . The melody is infectious.”

And Love appended a day later: ““I think she’s really clever … We have a lot in common now: We both have done songs called ‘California Girls’ and we’ve both kissed girls and liked it.”

Perry’s song, he said, “obviously brings to mind our ‘California Girls,’ it’s just in a different vernacular, a different way of appreciating the same things. The Beach Boys have always accentuated the positive, and hers is a positive message about California Girls, so what’s not to like?”

What do you think, readers? Indisputably, that line belongs to the Beach Boys; it’s an enduring phrase from our shared pop culture history whose origin can’t seriously be questioned by anyone (tough breaks, Diamond Dave!).

The subject matter, of course, is identical, but the full phrase in question isn’t a substantial portion of Perry’s song or its chorus; guest rapper Snoop Dogg tosses it off near the song’s end, which may or may not mitigate the label’s claims.

Tell us what you think, readers: Does the lawsuit sound legit to you? Do Love and Wilson’s previous comments jibe with their current stance?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More news from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ makes a splash on the Hot 100; Eminem still at No. 1
Miranda Lambert’s new video for ‘Only Prettier’ features some major country girl-power
Sugarland on their new album, ‘The Incredible Machine’
Gwyneth Paltrow goes country!
Jaron from Jaron and the Long Road to Love speaks
Taylor Swift announces new album, ‘Speak Now’

Comments (117 total) Add your comment
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  • JC

    They are just looking for some money

    • Rock Golf

      Agreed. I think the writers would have a good “fair use” argument. Will they now go back and sue Marky Mark for for reusing the phrase “got that good vibrations”? Will Gordon Lightfoot sue Nickelback for repurposing “just like a paperback novel”?
      Pure greed, hoping for an out-of-court settlement.

      • Kylie

        exactly it’s such a stupid case. “we wrote a song and then 20 years later you released a song with a similar line in it. when writing songs you are suppose to review every song ever written so you dont re-use lines” I could understand if it was a blatant rip-off but from what I can see it’s just a coincidence.

    • Anonymous

      Perry’s song, he said, “obviously brings to mind our ‘California Girls,’

      um, no.

    • etm

      What is it with this website and that stupid dong?!? Every day you guys (EW) post something about it.

    • smartass

      Seriously? Both songs suck wE ner

  • Colin

    I was under the impression that Snoop Dogg says “I really wish you all could be California Girls” which is not the same line, just very similar. Am I wrong?

    • malcontent

      He says “California girls man,
      I wish they all could be
      California girls, I really wish
      You all could be
      California girls”

      • GorgeousGeorges

        Sorry malcontent, Colin’s got it right. Listen to the song again.

      • Someone

        Sorry GorgeousGeorges your wrong and malcontent is right….

        [Snoop Dogg]
        (Californiaaa, Californiaaa)
        California girls man
        I wish they all could be
        California girls
        (Californiaaa)
        I really wish
        You all could be
        California girls
        (Californiaaa, yeah)

  • The Dude

    Just because a label copyrights a song doesn’t mean that every line within the song is copyrighted on its own. This is just another frivilous lawsuit filed by the major studios which are killing the music industry.

    • malcontent

      Yes, but this particular phrase is iconic. I doubt Mr. Dogg would have used that specific phrasing if he were not paying tribute to the original.

      • Jen

        LOL @ “Mr. Dogg”

      • Vince from NYC

        Rapper’s pay tribute to (or diss) other rappers all the time by borrowing a line. I can see if a courus was stolen but its just one line at the end of a verse by a rappers special appearence. A bad verse at that.

      • Kylie

        it’s not an “iconic” line I’m sorry. it’s a pretty obvious line even if they hadn’t released the song. I doubt he was paying tribute just a coincidence.

      • aves

        I definitely think it was a reference to the Beach Boys song “California Girls” but its a tiny part of the song and its not even in full context. So this is obviously just someone looking for a way to make some money.

      • Peter

        @Kylie, yes, it is an iconic line. One of the most iconic lyrics in rock, up there with “‘scuse me while I kiss the sky” and “I can’t get no satisfaction”.

        If you want to argue that it’s an obvious line, let’s look at the songs. The Beach Boys one lists the attributes of girls from around the world but still wishes “THEY all could be California girls”. Perry’s song talks only about California gurls, so who exactly is this “they” that Snoop is referring to? It makes no sense when you really look at the context.

        I mean, if you really want to dig into it.

    • Barry

      This is a Brian Wilson line. George Harrison had to pay royalties because “My Sweet Lord” has the same beat as “He’s So Fine”. She has to pay up also & learn how to properly spell the word “girls”.

      • Timmy

        Not so fast Barry, the spelling of “gurls” was done intentionally as a tribute to Big Star, apparently her manager is a big fan and talked her into it

      • Barry

        Who the hell is Big Star? Another crack head rapper who can’t spell?

      • Anth

        Um…Big Star was a power pop band in the 70s.

        The fact that it’s an iconic line actually damages their case–it’s obviously a reference meant to invoke the original song. Had they swiped some unknown lyric from an obscure song, that would be closer to theft.

  • Sam

    It’s not as good a publicity ploy as Lilo’s approach, but it is pretty good.

  • koker

    oh wow. what’s next, eagles are suing for using the word California in the song?

    no merit if u ask me.

    • Peter

      Hootie and the Blowfish were sued for using lines from a Dylan song in an obvious tribute. They settled out of court. Granted, it was almost an entire verse in that case.

  • Tim

    How is their new statment a change? It’s Rondor that owns the rights and is suing, not the Beach Boys. Plus their new statment says that Rondor approached them saying they are suing, they like the song but it’s Rondor who is suing. With it being a legal issue now they’re being a little more reerved now, that’s understandable. The headline “Beach Boys suing..” is misleading.

    • edd

      Exactly what I thought too… but I guess it’s more clickable than “Music label you’ve never heard of is suing Katy Perry”

    • S

      I agree. It doesn’t seem like Brian Wilson or Mike Love are instigating this, it’s the record label trying to make a buck. Since they own the title, Ronder would be making the money.

  • bill

    now this is just crazy. who cares about this. Lets all just go find a freakin job on careerDaddy com

  • AJ

    I thought you could only sue if they use the same melody. I am sure there are tons of songs that say “I will always love you” at some point and you don’t see Dolly Parton suing.

    • Scroobles

      Good point!

    • edge

      Dolly didn’t sue but she collected a ton of royalty checks from Whitney Houston’s version of the song…

      • malcontent

        Not even close to the same thing. Name me ONE other song that incorporates “I wish they all could be California girls” into the lyrics.

      • DD

        I think that’s because Whitney’s label had permission to re-record that song from Dolly…since she was the original singer/songwriter and I believe, kept the rights to her songs….One of the best things she ever did…LOL :)

    • malcontent

      Not even close to the same thing. Name me ONE other song that incorporates “I wish they all could be California girls” into the lyrics. (Sorry, posted in the wrong spot the first time)

      • dusen

        Malcontent, at what point do we stop the madness? Will we trademark/copyright every single sentence in the English language?

        And really, given Katy Perry’s young skewing fanbase, I wonder how many are even aware of the original. It’s not like including that line resulted in the song selling any more copies/generating any more airplays/profits.

        I hate our overly litigious society.

      • Storm

        California Girls by Oingo Boingo. California Girls by David Lee Roth.
        (sorry, if this shows up twice, my computer is not showing the post)

      • Rock Golf

        David Lee Roth’s “California Girls” is a cover of the Beach Boys. Ronder is already getting their cut.

      • malcontent

        Universal owns Rondor and the entire Oingo Boingo catalog. Nice googling, though.

      • dusen

        Also, isn’t it a bit ridiculous that a song can be over 45 years old and still claim copyright infringement? It’s had FORTY-FIVE YEARS to generate income for everybody involved. At what point should it become public domain???

      • Storm

        Lil’ Wayne’s California Love

    • James

      Dolly Parton was given the writing credit by Whitney Houston, so no, not the same thing

      • Rich

        …Because if Whitney Houston had claimed she wrote the song, Dolly would’ve sued the pants off her.

  • UGH

    I wish Katy Perry would just go away. Nice on the eyes, but she’s über annoying.

    • Rock Golf

      You know what else is über annoying?
      People who use the word über.

      • m

        but you get bonus points for proper umlaut usage.

      • UGH

        You know what else is über annoying?
        Idiots who critique other’s usage.
        Get a life, idiot.

  • Adam

    Of course it’s legit. People need to write theri own songs. Two of her huge hits are titles lifter from other people’s songs. It’s pathetic.

    • Rock Golf

      Yeah, and how about U2 and Metallica, who stole the title “One” from Harry Nillson. Jail’s too good for them!

    • Kylie

      There are about a billion songs with the same titles. It doesn’t mean anything.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Beachboys sing about California girls, Katy Perry says California gurls. The u in girls makes it different.

    • Rusty Shackelford

      I just wanted to point out I’m a complete idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Wow, did I hurt your feelings that much. It’s called sarcasm. It’s hilarious when someone uses your name to post, just means I got to you. Thanks for reading.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        P.S. Plus you are too stupid to even get the name right. It’s Shackleford, not Shackelford, so you can’t even insult somebody right.

      • Rusty Shackleford

        Sometimes I spell my name wrong when the douche fumes make me dizzy.

    • Dustin

      You see, Theirs goes “duh duh duh dududu” and Ours goes “duh duh duh dududu PISH”. See, there is a difference. Worked for Vanilla Ice

      • u

        LOL!

      • Peter

        People may laugh, but I remember that interview.

    • dusen

      If I write a song called “Stairway to Heaven”, with a completely different song structure/lyrics/melody than the original, and it becomes a success, do I deserve to get sued?

      What if it was the same example, but with a more generic title like “Toxic”, “Since U Been Gone”, or “Baby”?

      Where does it end?

      • Rock Golf

        You mean like Led Zeppelin did?
        The song title “Stairway To Heaven” was used ten years before Plant and Page by Neil Sedaka. Naturally, the only resemblance was the title. For the most part, song titles are uncopyrightable.

      • Dave

        Generally, titles aren’t a problem. For example, multiple songs entitled “I Can’t Wait” or “Talk to Me” (coincidentally, both titles used by Stevie Nicks). It actually gets dicier in terms of how iconic or specific the song is. You could have a song called “Michelle” and not incur the wrath of the Beatles if it’s a different tune, but calling your track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” would be something else.

  • Sherry

    I don’t care about Rondor or this waste of time lawsuit. I just want to hear a Mash-up of the two “Califonia Girls/Gurls” songs on Glee!

  • CaliforniaLady

    As a Californian, I don’t want Katy Perry or her song representing the state. Can I sue for that?

    • Good one

      please California’s already such a cesspool even Katy Perry coudln’t damage its reputation

      • CaliforniaLady

        According to whom? East-Coaster who have never been here?

      • m

        oh no. not another east-coast vs. west-coast rivalry – it’s like 1996 all over again!

  • Macaroni

    Mike Love saying “obviously brings to mind our California Girls” is a certainly a joke isn’t it? What a swelled head. There’s absolutely no connection between them other than a few words. This lawsuit would be a joke, too.

    • Dave

      How is that a joke? There’s a song called “California Gurls”, and it makes him think of “California Girls”? OUTRAGEOUS. Next you’ll say that you’re not supposed to associate Hulk Hogan with The Hulk, even though WWF/WWE had to pay Marvel Comics money for years.

    • kate

      Seriously? You DIDN’T think of California Girls when you heard the song? I don’t think it’s a swelled head when your iconic music defined a way of life for decades. It’s not like he’s Brittany Spears, for god’s sake. Besides, he’s not even the one suing. I think the lawsuit is stupid, but to dismiss Love’s impact on the music scene so blithely is even more stupid.

  • commenter

    This was done in tribute, not plagiarism. It wasn’t even sung in the same melody, it was rapped. I hope Rondor loses.

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