Justin Bieber and his mentor Usher have won a plagiarism lawsuit filed against them over the song “Somebody To Love” after judge says no reasonable juror would see it a copy.
Justin Bieber may be fighting off a pile-up criminal and civil cases but he can cross one off the list. The “Baby” singer and Usher have just won a lawsuit in which they were accused of stealing the 2010 hit, “Somebody to Love.”
Songwriter plaintiffs, Devin “the Dude” Copeland and Mareio Overton’s May 2, 2013 lawsuit stated they wrote a song called “Somebody to Love” in 2008, with Copeland putting a song of that name on his own album My Story II.
The pair claimed their song shares key components with Usher and Bieber’s later versions such as the chorus (“I… need somebody to loooooove!’), time signature, chords placement, use of ‘call-and-response’ structure, and “one measure of strategic silence just prior to or at the beginning of the chorus.” They sued for $10 million in damages.
However, on Friday, US district judge Arenda Allen dismissed the claims with prejudice, The Hollywood Reporter reports.
In their suit Copeland said he was put in touch with Sangreel Media, who were scouting for talent for music companies including Sony and Island and were interested in pushing his songs. Copeland alleged Sangreel passed copies of “Somebody to Love” to other artists including Usher. A dialogue with Usher’s mother and manager opened but stopped by 2009.
Usher then wrote a song called “Somebody To Love” and posted it to the Internet.
Bieber later recorded a version of it with Usher’s help and it became a cut on his 2010 album, My World 2.0.
Another remix followed.
On Bieber’s version of the song, writing credits list him, Jonathan Yip, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus (the Stereotypes production team) and Heather Bright.
Judge Allen examined whether the songwriters’ version and Usher and Bieber’s were “extrinsically similar,” as in did they contain similar ideas. The other test was “intrinsically similar,” and is a subjective impression of how those ideas are presented in the songs.
Bieber’s and Usher’s lawyers said the general public’s subjective opinion mattered most. The songwriters said song professionals such as A&R executives, managers, and – presumably – producers subjective opinion counted.
Allen disagreed and said that while songwriters ‘sell’ their song to industry professionals when a song is pitched for an artist, decisions are based on what it’s thought the public will like and buy.
As per court records:
“Although the immediate purchasers may be industry professionals, their purchasing decisions are based on the song’s expected appeal to consumers and any harm caused to plaintiffs by the accuse songs would be caused by the public construing Plaintiffs’ song as similar to the accused songs.”
As regards similarity claims, the judge decided:
“Having examined Plaintiffs’ song and the three accused songs, the Court finds that the songs cannot be reasonably construed as being substantially similar,” the judge writes. “Although the accused songs have some elements in common with Plaintiffs’ song, their mood, tone, and subject matter differ significantly.”
“This is not a case where a listener who had not ‘set out to detect the disparities would be disposed to overlook them, and regard [the songs’] aesthetic appeal as the same.’ Instead, any listener who had not set out to detect the songs’ similarities would be inclined to overlook them, and regard the songs* aesthetic appeal as different. Therefore, a reasonable juror could not conclude that a member of the public would construe the aesthetic appeal of the songs as being similar.”
In short: Bieber and Usher are in the clear and we can all carry on listening to “Somebody To Love” with no guilt whatsoever.