Alabama, ‘Christmas in Dixie’ at Center of Australian Lawsuit
Country supergroup Alabama has found themselves involved — albeit somewhat indirectly — in an unusual legal battle over a song that was a seasonal hit for them 30 years ago. In 1979, a tune called “On the Inside,” was a No. 1 hit in Australia. The tender ballad, recorded by Lynne Hamilton as the theme for the gritty women-behind-bars TV drama “Prisoner,” was penned by Aussie singer-songwriter Allan Caswell and was also a hit on the UK charts. In 2009, Caswell sued his publishing company, Sony ATV Music Publishing Australia, saying that they didn’t do their job by collecting royalty payments from Alabama. Why? Because that band’s 1982 holiday-themed single, “Christmas in Dixie,” Caswell claimed, contained identical parts to his original melody. He isn’t pursuing legal action against the group, however. (Listen to both songs below.)
Australia’s Telegraph newspaper reports that Caswell, 60, originally thought it unlikely that the publishing company would pursue Alabama on his behalf in a plagiarism lawsuit because they were also represented by Sony, which is why he launched legal action against the music publisher claiming it should have collected royalty payments for him from the group.
“That’s the problem,” Caswell tells Australian TV’s “Today Tonight.” “I’m signed to Sony ATV. Alabama is signed to Sony Music. So it’s all in-house. There’s no incentive for them to take action. They basically can’t take action because they’d be suing themselves.”
The lawsuit states that in 2004, Sony had a musicologist examine the two songs. He concluded at the time that they “shared a level of similarity that went beyond what he would consider to be a random occurrence of sheer coincidence.”
The case heads to NSW (New South Wales) Supreme Court in June.
“It’s not a plagiarism lawsuit — it’s about getting my publishing company [Sony] to do their job,” says Caswell. “I’m saying I wrote it first, they used some of it in their song and now I want to be compensated for it.” “Christmas in Dixie” also charted during the Christmas season in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In 2003, Alabama lead singer Randy joined Kenny Chesney on a cover version of the tune.
Listen to Lynne Hamilton Sing “On the Inside”