// John Lewis pledges substantial charity donation following copycat row
// The retailer denies plagiarism but will make donations to Mind and Cruse Bereavement Care
John Lewis has pledged a ‘substantial’ charity donation to put an end to a copycat song row after being accused of plagiarising the song it used in this year’s Christmas advert.
The department store chain has agreed to donate an undisclosed sum to Mind and Cruse Bereavement Care after the copyright row threatened to undermine its festive ad campaign, according to The Mail on Sunday.
John Lewis was initially criticised by alt-folk duo The Portraits for replicating the arrangement of their 1985 electro-pop classic Together in Electric Dreams.
Musicians Lorraine and Jeremy Millington said they sent a 2020 cover of the song to the retailer back in March, suggesting that the new arrangement would work for the company’s Christmas advert, but received no response.
They went on to claim that the version used in this year’s John Lewis campaign – which tells the story of a boy who befriends an alien – has been replicated from the arrangement they released last year for charity.
John Lewis has strenuously denied all allegations, but following ongoing talks, has announced that it will be making ‘substantial’ donations to the two charities who received the profits from the 2020 release.
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“We share common interests with the Portraits in the love of the song and our commitment to charities,” a spokesman said.
“We’re glad to donate to the Portraits’ chosen charities.”
Both sides commissioned musicologists to back up their cases, with very different results.
The Portraits’ report said that a ‘very basic adjustment’ in pitch made the two versions match up, while the John Lewis musicologist was “unable to identify any meaningful evidence of copying from The Portraits arrangement”.
“Our version of Electric Dreams is an original cover that was properly authorised by our advertising agency, who secured copyright licences from the original publishers of the track on our behalf,” added John Lewis’ spokesperson.
“A brand like ours would never copy another cover version.”