Hollywood Docket: Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Fight 'Spark the Fire' Lawsuit

Plus, Netflix is sued by a shareholder and the city of Los Angeles is taking Radar Pictures to court over business taxes.
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Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams

Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams are asking a Colorado federal court to dismiss a lawsuit that claims "Spark the Fire" copies someone else's work.

For starters, the duo says there's no legal reason for the dispute to play out in the Centennial State. If the court declines their motion to dismiss, they're asking that the case be transferred to California, where they both live and work — and where Stefani allegedly gained possession of the song she's accused of copying.

Richard Morrill in January sued Stefani, her company Harajuku Lovers, Williams and Interscope Records, claiming "Spark the Fire" infringes on his rights in a 1996 song called "Who's Got My Lightah." 

Morrill was a member of L.A.P.D., the band that eventually became Korn, and says he gave Stefani a CD containing his song in the late '90s while he was working as a hairdresser in Huntington Beach, Calif. He currently lives in Colorado, but defendants argue that isn't a good enough reason to keep the case there.

If the court both declines to dismiss and to transfer the matter, attorney Timothy Reynolds argues the claim of civil theft against Stefani should be dismissed because the Copyright Act preempts it.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tafoya on Monday granted a motion to stay all discovery in the matter pending a ruling on the motion to dismiss. 

In other entertainment legal news:

— Netflix is being sued for allegedly covering up a lull in subscriber growth because of a rate increase. James Ziolkowski is suing the streamer, along with CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells, for violation of federal securities laws. He claims Netflix knew a May 2014 price hike could have "a big, negative impact on subscriber growth" but publicly downplayed the effect. He is bringing a class action on behalf of every person who bought or acquired Netflix stock from July 22, 2014 through Oct. 15, 2014. "When the market learned the truth about Netflix’s price increase and its brutal impact on subscriber growth, Netflix’s stock plummeted by more than 19% on several times the Company’s average trading volume," states the complaint. "Over $5 billion of shareholder value was lost overnight, and Plaintiff and the Class suffered enormous investment losses as a result." (Read the complaint in full here.)

— Musician, YouTube star and America's Got Talent alum Lindsey Stirling is suing a man who she says is falsely claiming to be a co-writer and co-producer of one of her songs. Stirling equally shares credit for and copyright ownership of "Firefly" with Keith Varon and McKay Stevens. She says Matthew Steeper, who used to live with Varon, was in the studio when she was recording and made several unsolicited suggestions for the song that were rejected. Later, Varon gave Steeper a copy of the master recording without Stirling's permission and he "returned it with de minimis changes." She licensed the song to Mattel for use in Barbie: Star Light Adventure and afterward Steeper's attorney sent a series of demand letters to Varon claiming that he was entitled to credit and compensation. Now, Stirling, Stevens and Varon are asking the court for a declaration that Steeper is not a co-author or co-producer of the track.

— The city of Los Angeles is suing Radar Pictures for more than $53,000 in unpaid business taxes. According to the complaint, the bulk of that amount was due in April 2015. The rest became due in July 2016. The City Attorney's office is seeking the full unpaid balance plus interest and delinquency penalties, which continue to accrue. (Read the complaint in full here.) Radar's chairman Ted Field is also currently being sued for fraud by a financier of a Kickboxer remake. That trial is currently set for April 10.