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Why was Mariah Carey sued for $20 million for ‘All I Want For Christmas is you’?

Songwriter Andy Stone sued the festive icon for copyright infringement on one of her biggest hits but has since withdrawn the lawsuit.

Why was Mariah Carey sued for $20M for ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’?

As Christmas approaches, sightings of Mariah Carey will only rise as we gear up for the festive season. Her 1994 single ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ is one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time but it was the subject of a lawsuit earlier this year.

In June Mississippi songwriter Andy Stone filed a lawsuit claiming that Carey’s track infringed on his copyright. The filing claimed that Carey and her co-writer, Walter Afanasieff, had “knowingly, wilfully, and intentionally” copied elements of his 1989 song, also entitled ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’.

However the two tracks have very different melodies and lyrics, and there is little real similarity beyond the name. That is likely why, in November, Stone dismissed his own case, which had been seeking $20 million in damages.

Stone, who currently goes by the stage name Vince Vance, now performs with the country-pop band Vince Vance & The Valiants.

He is a New Orleans native and filed the suit in his hometown, citing copyright infringement and misappropriation violations. He claimed that Carey adopted his song by the same name’s “style” and that she exploited the “popularity” of his song which received many radio plays during the holidays in the early 1990s.

Are the two songs similar?

Aside from the title and the use of the title in the chorus, the two songs are fairly different. There are a few similarities in the lyrics, but with Christmas music, originality is not alway easy. Take a listen for yourself!

There are certainly some similarities in the lyrics. For example, in Stone’s version he wrote “Santa can’t bring me what I need, where as in Carey’s version she sings “Santa Claus won’t make me happy with a toy on Christmas Day.

Earlier in the song, Carey’s version reads “I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree,” whereas Stone’s says “All that I want, can’t be found underneath the Christmas tree.”

One aspect of the case cited in the initial filing papers is that Carey was wrong to have used the same title for her song which came out only a few years later. Stone claimed that it caused unnecessary confusion and that the pop icon should have asked for permission.

What prompted Stone to file the suit?

The motivation behind the suit may be related to the record breaking success of Carey’s version which has become the unofficial theme song of the Christmas season.

In 2021, Forbes estimated that she had made around $72 million on royalties since the song was released. Their figures come from an article from The Economist which projected that between 1994 and 2016 she made around $60 million from the holiday tune alone.

Carey has not made any public statements about the case.