The rap-rock group claim Paul’s song “copies prominent, qualitatively and quantitively important, original parts” of their 2008 hit “Handlebars.”
Filed on Thursday, the lawsuit names both current and former members of Flobots as plaintiffs, including Stephen Brackett, James Laurie, Kenneth Ortiz, Andrew Guerroro, Mackenzie Roberts and Jesse Walker, along with Flobots Music LLC d/b/a Flobots Music Publishing.
In the suit, Flobots claim Paul’s “No Handlebars” “copies prominent, qualitatively and quantitively important, original parts” of their 2008 single “Handlebars,” thereby infringing their copyright. They are seeking actual damages in addition to profits “that are attributable to the copyrighted material,” an accounting of “all profits, income, receipts, or other benefits” derived by Paul and Maverick Media from “No Handlebars,” an injunction barring them from further infringing their copyright and the establishment of a “running royalty on all future exploitations” of the song.
Though Paul claimed in a December 2017 TMZ video interview that he was unaware of either Flobots or “Handlebars,” the suit casts doubt on that by pointing to the single’s popularity — “Handlebars” peaked at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the RIAA — as well as the “substantially similar” qualities shared by both songs.
Among other things, Flobots claim that the songs share similar and occasionally identical lyrics; similar hooks, similar instrumentation that is “unusual in the genre,” including a solo viola and trumpet; identical “rhythms and metric placements”; similar string melodies and other “significant defining elements.” The suit includes extensive musical transcription to back up these claims.
“No Handlebars” was released on Paul’s YouTube channel and social media platforms on November 23, 2017. The suit estimates that the music video received more than 26 million views in one month and that Paul and Maverick Media have earned in excess of $1 million from the song, including from public performances, licensing and sales.
In December 2017, Flobots singer Laurie and some of his bandmates created a response video entitled “Handle Your Bars” that was “a direct a message to Logan Paul regarding the infringement of the Original Work,” according to the suit. The band also accused him of misogyny in a tweet posted the day after “No Handlebars'” release.
Paul eventually removed “No Handlebars” from his YouTube channels, though the suit claims it continues to live elsewhere on the video-sharing website and that Paul and Maverick Media continue to profit from it.
Paul has a combined 23 million subscribers across his two YouTube channels and 18 million followers on Instagram. In 2018, Forbes estimated that he earned about $150,000 per Facebook post and $80,000 per Instagram post.
Flobots are seeking actual damages in addition to profits “that are attributable to the copyrighted material,” an accounting of “all profits, income, receipts, or other benefits” derived by Paul and Maverick Media from “No Handlebars, an injunction barring them from further infringing the copyright and the establishment of a “running royalty” for Flobots “on all future exploitations” of the song.
A representative for Paul did not respond to a request for comment at time of publishing.