Hollywood Docket: Justin Bieber Copyright Lawsuit Revived

A roundup of entertainment law news including resolution to lawsuits against Sharon Stone and the Tea Party HD founder.
REX USA

Justin Bieber and Usher could be headed for the "Blurred Lines" treatment after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals revived a copyright lawsuit that accuses them of creating the 2010 song, "Somebody to Love," from a 2008 song with the same name by Devin "the Dude" Copeland.

The defendants were given a victory in March 2014 when a Virginia federal judge addressed the intrinsic similarity between the two songs. Importantly, the judge decided back then that the subjective opinions of professionals rather than the general public was most important, and that it didn't pass muster.

On Thursday, Fourth Circuit judge Pamela Harris has a different conclusion.

"Though industry professionals may have been the intended direct recipients of Copeland’s music, the impressions that matter are those of the general public that constitutes the market for popular music — because, as Copeland admits, those are the impressions that industry professionals would have in mind in choosing whether to do business with Copeland," she writes.

Having decided this, she gets to whether the songs are sufficiently similar to the ears of the general pubic to give rise to a valid copyright claim.

"After listening to the Copeland song and the Bieber and Usher songs as wholes, we conclude that their choruses are similar enough and also significant enough that a reasonable jury could find the songs intrinsically similar," she writes in a decision remanding the case for further proceedings.

Here's the full opinion.

In other entertainment law news:

Sharon Stone is no longer being sued for not returning $275,000 to a PR firm after she canceled a trip to Ecuador. MCSquared PR alleged in the lawsuit that it went through the American Program Bureau to hire celebrities to bring awareness to environmental damage caused by oil giant Chevron in its Northeast Amazon region. Stone hit back at the lawsuit by asserting that press releases were put out without approval and that the PR firm wasn't in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. On June 9, the plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.

• Voltage Pictures is being sued by investors in the Dallas Buyers Club for allegedly hiding foreign distribution agreements. The complaint states that "not one dollar" had been collected on foreign or pay-per-view for the film, which earned Oscars for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. The lawsuit claims breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, fraudulent inducement and breach of contract.

Taiwan Smart has reportedly won $850,000 in damages at a trial against the city of Miami after his arrest was shown on A&E show The First 48. Smart spent 19 months in jail until murder charges were dropped, and according to the Miami Herald, he sued the city for a civil rights violation stemming from an arrest by cops who admitted playing up for the camera. The judge rejected showing the jury footage from the show with concerns about “what is real versus the result of reality television.”

Anthony Loiacono has successfully beat back most of the allegations filed against him over a television network that was to provide news about the Tea Party. In October 2010, he was sued for $19 million in alleged damages by Tea Party HD backer Bill Hemrick over asserted misrepresentations and conversion in the advance of the network, once promising 20 million visitors to a website. The case went to trial, lasted ten days and resulted in a jury finding Loiacono not liable for most of the causes of action. Only a claim for breaching fiduciary duty as a director was accepted with a $26,278 award, but that was partly offset by the jury's decision that Hemrick himself violated a fiduciary duty to the tune of $13,089 in damages.

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