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Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade doesn’t share any meaningful similarities to the seven-minute short film it’s accused of ripping off, according to a motion to dismiss filed Friday.
Independent filmmaker Matthew Fulks sued Beyonce in June, claiming her Emmy-nominated work and its trailer copied nine elements of his short film Palinoia. Those elements include “graffiti and persons with heads down,” “red persons with eyes obscured,” “parking garage,” “feet on the street,” and “side-lit ominous figures.” All of this, he argues, constitutes a similarity in the “total concept and feel” of the two works.
Tom Ferber, who is representing Beyonce, her company Parkwood Entertainment and HBO, says that the two projects concern “a distressed lover’s pain” is too broad a similarity to be copyright infringement. He sites Blakeman v. Disney, in which the court used as an example the hypothetical absurdity that Animal House and Rudy could be found substantially similar because they both depict college life.
“A straightforward comparison of the parties’ works provides a textbook example of what does not constitute a legally cognizable claim of infringement,” states the motion. “The SAC describes elements and features of the works in abstractions so broad as to be meaningless — because, as even a cursory review of the parties’ works makes clear, at the level of copyrightable expression the works are markedly dissimilar.”
Palinoia tells the story of a “tumultuous relationship” between a white man and woman that has ended, according to the motion, while Lemonade is the story of a woman progressing through the a series of emotions that “evoke the Kubler-Ross stages of grief” in the context of African-American culture. (You can compare for yourself by watching Palinoia in full here, and the Lemonade trailer here.)
Fulks claims he was contacted about a potential gig directing a video for MS MR, which is signed to former defendant Columbia, and sent a link to his film in response. Just a few months later, he claims, Lemonade began filming.
A hearing is currently set for Aug. 25.
Read the full motion to dismiss below.
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