Iron Maiden Songwriting Dispute Settled, But New Lawsuit Looms
The legal battle to determine who deserves credit for writing Iron Maiden's "Hallowed Be Thy Name" appears to have been settled — but it also looks like bandleader and chief songwriter Steve Harris can expect to deal with another claim in the not-too-distant future.
"Hallowed Be Thy Name" — a Maiden fan favorite since its release as part 1982's The Number of the Beast — was dropped from the set list while lawyers worked out the conflict, which stems from similarities shared with "Life's Shadow," a song recorded by the band Beckett in 1974.
The Beckett track is credited to Bob Barton and Brian Quinn; according to Quinn, Barton made a deal with the members of Iron Maiden and cut him out of his fair share — leading Quinn's lawyer, Barry McKay, to seek redress. Now, according to McKay, the matter has been settled to his and Quinn's satisfaction without a trial.
"Iron Maiden’s management failed to produce any accurate earnings figures for the two songs which contained stolen lyrics and music until both parties had already spent well over half a million pounds on legal costs. Once the lower-than-expected figures had been examined, both parties agreed to settle the claim," said McKay. "The defendants [Steve Harris and Dave Murray] have paid all of the plaintiffs considerable legal costs as well as their own legal costs and six figure damages."
Meanwhile, Iron Maiden is holding firm, despite the settlement. "We do not believe that Brian Quinn was the one who wrote these six lines in question over 40 years ago as was claimed by Barry McKay," the band said in an official statement. "However, due to escalating legal fees and the potential huge costs of a court case it was pragmatic to reluctantly settle this action with McKay for £100,000, a fraction of what he brought the action for. A serial litigator like Mr. McKay would have foreseen this."
In fact, these court proceedings may not be the last. While outlining Harris' defense, McKay made it clear that he sees a pattern of dishonest behavior, and he's already made it clear that "Hallowed Be Thy Name" may be only one of numerous cases of copyright theft that he's willing to litigate.
"Harris admitted that 'the lyrics of 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' reproduce a substantial part of the lyrics of 'Life's Shadow," however, Harris' lame excuse for this was that he composed the lyrics for 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' while recording the album in early 1982, only using the words from 'Life's Shadow' as 'guide lyrics' and intending to replace them before the final recording," reads a portion of McKay's comments. "This excuse is untrue because Harris could not have written the lyrics in 1982 while in the studio because Iron Maiden performed the song live during at least one gig in 1981, with the lyrics as they are now and always have been."
While seemingly satisfied with the outcome of the "Hallowed Be Thy Name" case, McKay adds that "papers are currently being prepared to commence a brand new legal action for copyright infringement" against Harris, Murray, and Iron Maiden's publishing company — and he anticipates needing to take potentially extreme measures to have the defendants served.
"If Harris and Murray continue to avoid service, they well be served with papers during their forthcoming tour," said McKay. "One way or another, papers will be served on Harris and Murray ... and that is the 'legacy' resulting from copyright theft, deceiving fans and profiteering."