It has been 4 years since Disney’s hit animated movie Frozen came out, but the company is still riding the highs of the catchy, uplifting movie. The songs are well known, the characters iconic, and a new short film was introduced recently and presented to audiences before Pixar’s Coco in theaters. Unfortunately, Disney is also suffering the consequences of their billion dollar success– people filing lawsuits against them claiming infringement.
On Thanksgiving, Chilean musician Jamie Ciero filed suit against Disney, claiming that the Frozen song “Let It Go” is very similar to his own song, “Volar,” which was released in 2008. According to Ciero, the Disney borrowed a lot from is Volar, and even the titles have a similar meaning: Volar means “to fly.” The suit names Disney, the writers of the song and its famous performers Idina Menzel and Demi Lovato, Ciero claims Let It Go borrows “note combinations, structures, hooks, melodies, lyrics, themes, production and textures” from “Volar.”
Releasing the song years before Disney released Frozen, regardless of how similar the two are, is not the be all end all in this situation, however. While it is a strong indicator of potential infringement, actual registration is another important part of a copyright infringement claim. While Ciero has 13 current registrations with the U.S. Copyright Office, his song Volar isn’t one of them. This means Ciero could miss out two categories of money damages.
Specifically, registration affords statutory and punitive damages, as well as whether the party will be awarded attorneys’ fees. The lack of federal registration for Volar could influence how Ciero will proceed.
It is also possible that Disney will look to settle with Ciero. They have done so in the past with an author claiming that the teaser trailer for Frozen was very similar to her short film (read more about this case in our post from 2014: https://www.windycitytrialgroup.com/author-frozen-out/). We will keep an eye out to see what happens – and who “lets it go” first.