Heidi Merrill, a Hastings High graduate and University of Nebraska-Lincoln alum, is part of a songwriting team that has sued country singer Carrie Underwood, the NFL and NBC, saying they stole a song and “slightly modified” it to introduce “Sunday Night Football” to viewers last season.
According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court noted that Underwood’s “Game On” even carried the same title as Merrill put on an internet music video two years ago.
The lawsuit sought unspecified damages, saying the copyright was violated on the song that had been pitched to Underwood’s representatives in 2017.
According to The Associated Press, the plaintiffs are a songwriting team consisting of four individuals, including Merrill, who lives in Newport Beach, California.
The lawsuit said Merrill assembled the group to create the song in 2016 as a follow to her Nebraska-themed football anthem “Cornhusker Strong.”
It said they marketed the song, aiming to get it licensed for use in television broadcasts of sporting events.
Merrill pitched the song to Underwood’s producer in August 2017 during a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, where Underwood lives, the lawsuit said.
It said the producer referred Merrill to his assistant, who told her in an email in October 2017: “I’m sorry, we’re going to have to pass.”
The lawsuit claimed that the song that introduced 17 NFL Sunday night games through the season beginning in September 2018 “is substantially — even strikingly — similar, if not identical,” to the song Underwood’s team had rejected.
According to a September 2015 story in the Hastings Tribune, Merrill released her first album, “Homegrown” on Oct. 2.
Included on the five-song EP is “Cornhusker Strong.” Co-written by Merrill, Jeff Cohen (who has written songs for Perry, Sugar Ranch and Josh Groban) and Tamara Stewart, the song quickly generated interest online as soon as it was released.
Filmed on-site in and around Lincoln in July 2015, the Husker football-themed video had received more than 77,000 hits on Youtube as of Sept. 2, 2015, generating national interest in such publications as USA Today and The Huffington Post in the process along with radio play across the state and strong sales on iTunes.
“I’m really happy with the response,” Merrill told the Tribune in a telephone interview Sept. 1, 2015, from her home base in New York. “I was hoping people would embrace it and love it and it’s gone even beyond what I was hoping. I can’t name how many radio stations have talked to me to do interviews. It’s pretty awesome.
“I teared up yesterday when someone said they were listening to ‘Cornhusker Strong’ on the radio and they could see my name on their radio dashboard. I wish I’d been there so I could have seen and heard it myself! That’s the ultimate dream of any musician is to hear themselves on the radio. That’s pretty cool.”