All I Want for Christmas is...Everyone to understand what copyright infringement is (not)

Readers may have seen that the media have picked up on a claim made against Mariah Carey for copyright infringement by her infamous song "All I Want for Christmas is You". Just in case there was any doubt in readers' minds, here are the reasons why this Kat believes that this claim is nonsense and will likely – or at least, should - be dismissed as such. 


Andy Stone (performing as Vince Vance & the Valiants), the Plaintiff bringing the claim, co-wrote a song titled All I Want for Christmas is You in 1989 (Registration Number PAu001163343, registered 21 November 1988). [The other co-owner, Troy Powers, is not currently joined in the complaint.] Whilst the lesser known of the two songs, it has charted several times on the Billboard country singles' charts. 

He could have at least filed in December... 
Image: Josh Berglund

On 3 June 2022, Stone filed a complaint against Mariah Carey, her co-writer Walter Afanasieff and record label Sony, for copyright infringement, unjust enrichment and misappropriation and Lanham Act violation, claiming USD 60 million. 

Carey’s song "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was published on her fourth studio album Merry Christmas and released as the lead single from the album on 29 October 1994. It subsequently became a global success, topping the charts in 26 countries, with an estimated sales of over 16 million copies worldwide. It is the best-selling holiday song by a female artist, and one of the best-selling physical singles in music history. The song is certified Diamond by RIAA, denoting sales of 10 million copies in the United States, becoming the first and only holiday song to accomplish this feat.

The claims

The complaint claims that the Defendants committed “acts of unjust enrichment by the unauthorized appropriation of Plaintiff’s work and the goodwill associated therewith, all which are proprietary to Plaintiff as set forth herein, to the commercial gain, personal profit and unjust enrichment of the defendants and the irreparable injury and financial loss of Plaintiff.” This appears to suggest that Carey – who was already an internationally known popstar at the time – rode off the reputation of Stone in order to benefit financially from her song, at the expense of Stone. Whilst it may be true that Carey’s song overshadowed Stone’s, there is no evidence that Carey’s success was in any way connected to Stone.  

Curiously, the complaint does not exactly state that there has been any substantial copying, but rather that the “Defendants never sought or obtained permission from Plaintiff to use “All I Want for Christmas is You” in creating, reproducing, recording, distributing, selling, or publicly performing said song.” However, as readers will know, there can be no copyright in a title (see also Compendium US Copyright Offices Practices, §313.4C). And in fact, after a quick search of the US copyright register, there are 177 entries for “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

However, the complaint does states that the “Defendants, have knowingly, willfully, and intentionally engaged in a campaign to infringe Plaintiff’s copyright in the work “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and points to violation of Section 106 (1)-(3) and (5) of 17 U.S.C. (the copyright holder’s exclusive right to reproduction, derivative works, distribution and display the work publicly). This indicates that the claim is for conscious copying, as opposed to subconscious copying, which would require the Plaintiff to demonstrate, first, that the Defendants heard their song and, secondly, that they copied a substantial part of it. Other than the song’s popularity at the time, there is no evidence that Carey heard Stone’s song. In general, the two songs are not similar, and there is no suggestion of their similarities in the complaint. The parts that are similar would be the theme, the title and evidently the lyrics “all I want for Christmas is you,” which, of course, are unoriginal elements and therefore do not constitute substantial similarities for the purpose of a copyright infringement claim.    

Delay in bringing the claim 

In any event, the laches defence (unreasonable, prejudicial delay in commencing suit) will likely be raised by Carey since - to recap - Stone released his song in 1989 and Mariah Carey published her song with the same title 5 years later - which became the biggest selling and streamed holiday song that takes over the festive season annually and reportedly generates an estimated $600,000 per year – and yet, the complaint states that the Plaintiff’s counsel initially made contact with Defendants in April 2021, 27 years later. 

The statute of limitations under the US law is three years from the act of infringement. However, a claim can still be made if the infringement is continuing, which means the complaint will not fail on this point alone since Carey’s song is still being distributed. But it does limit Stone’s damages to three years prior to the complaint. 


In summary then, this complaint will likely be dismissed for the following reasons:

1) copyright does not protect titles, 

2) the complaint does not argue that there is any substantial similarities between the two songs, or indeed that there has been any actual copying, although copyright infringement is mentioned, 

3) the songs are not similar, 

4) the parts that are similar (i.e., the lyrics “all I want for Christmas is you”) are not original and therefore not protected by copyright,

5) there is no evidence that Carey heard Stone’s song in order to have copied it, and, 

6) there is no justification for bringing the claim 27 years after the release of Carey’s song.

This appears to be a case, not of copyright infringement, but of terrible legal advice. I don’t want a lot for Christmas, but there is just one thing I need… and that is for the music industry to stop suing each other over baseless copyright infringement claims!

All I Want for Christmas is...Everyone to understand what copyright infringement is (not) All I Want for Christmas is...Everyone to understand what copyright infringement is (not) Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Tuesday, June 07, 2022 Rating: 5


  1. Infamous song? It's iconic!

    1. haha true.. perhaphs infamous to those who work in retail at Christmas time!

  2. Terrific analysis and agree that it’s time to push back against the continuing but baseless claims of copyright infringement


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