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Why This Musician Is Suing Rockstar Games

The Grand Theft Auto series has seen its fair share of controversy and shocking moments over the years, but those are typically related to the violent actions of the characters and the things the games have made players do. Now, it appears as though GTA and its developer, Rockstar Games, have landed in hot water for an entirely new issue: copyright infringement.

Musician and composer Shawn Lee has alleged that Rockstar has reused one of his tracks in its games without permission or compensation. According to a report published by Fox5 San Diego, Lee was approached by Rockstar to possibly supply music for an upcoming game, following Lee's gig as the composer for Rockstar's Bully. After Lee provided Rockstar with a "spec track," but the company rejected the song and moved forward without Lee's involvement.

Lee moved on as well, eventually releasing that spec track as a full-fledged song called "Biker Chick." According to Lee's suit, "certain compositions and stems, containing a certain melody and riff that had been presented to defendant" have since been used in the soundtracks of both GTA 4 and GTA 5. Now he and music label Ubiquity Records are suing Rockstar for allegedly stealing elements of "Biker Chick."

Lee claims that he wasn't alerted to the alleged tune theft until sometime last year. It is unclear whether a fan told Lee about the songs or he heard the tracks in the game himself, but it clearly took some time for the news to reach him, considering GTA 5 was released in 2013. A quick glance at Lee's considerable discography reveals that he's stayed incredibly busy in the years before and since Bully, seemingly never slowing down his output.

Speaking of fans, gamers on Reddit have taken to debating the legitimacy of Lee's claim. Some can totally hear the similarities between Lee's track and the songs that he claims ripped him off. Others aren't so sure, and only hear the most basic resemblance in instrumentation.

When it comes to controversial GTA content, this is not the first time Rockstar has been accused of stealing. Grand Theft Auto 5, in particular, has been the subject of a few lawsuits since its release, and two of the most high profile cases have involved celebrities trying to protect their image. 

Lindsay Lohan sued Rockstar back in 2014, alleging that the game's character Lacey Jonas was based on her. That case dragged on until 2018, when the court ruled in Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive's favor. Mob Wives star Karen Gravano likewise alleged that GTA 5 ripped off her persona and life story, but her case was eventually dismissed, as well.

Rockstar has yet to comment on the latest lawsuit.