Justin Timberlake: Did He Really Steal Music? And What Amounts To Copyright Infringement?

Justin Timberlake is facing a nightmare that many artists dread. He’s been accused of copying a piece of work that belongs to someone else. The copyright federal suit is over his number, “Damn Girl,” which has allegedly been copied from “A New Day is Here At Last,” Billboard has reported.

The sister of disco artist Perry Kibble is the one to file the suit. Music publisher PK Music Performance, Inc, sued Timberlake on Wednesday, and have sought damages and an injunction to stop them from “reproducing, distributing and publicly performing ‘Damn Girl’.”

Will Adams, a.k.a. Will.i.am, is also listed as one of the defendants.

“A New Day is Here At Last” came out in 1969, and was released by JC Davis and the same year, a copyright was registered by Kibble.

After Kibble’s passing in 1999, the ownership and copyright went to his sister, Janis McQuiston, and in early December, 2015, the copyright was assigned to PK Music Performance.

McQuinton claimed in the suit that “Damn Girl” is quite similar to “A New Day is Here at Last.”

“Specifically, a substantial part of the drum, conga drum, organ, bass guitar, electric guitar, and saxophone parts in Damn Girl, were all copied from ‘A New Day Is Here At Last’,” Lester wrote. Well, that’s quite a claim. It’s not like it’s hard to tell. Below are the two music videos. Why don’t you decide?

Timberlake has been known for both his film roles and music — although it could be safely said that his film career did not quite go as one expected — but he is adored on Instagram for supporting kids charities and being a generally nice guy with a family. He posted a picture of him with a clown nose captioned: “It ain’t hard to get me to be a clown… To support kids charities, tune in…”

However, it looks like his fans and enemies alike have forgotten the Mr. Nice that Timberlake usually plays. The social media was abuzz after the news came out. Some calling Justin Timberlake the “culture vulture.”

Although some showed anger, other were in pure shock, while others certainly expressed a lot of sadness.

In Lee Wilson’s The Advertising Law Guide, in the chapter “Copyright Infringement and How to Avoid It,” he writes the following.

“The circumstantial evidence test for copyright infringement by unauthorized copying has three parts:

“1. Did the accused infringer have ‘access’ to the work that is said to have been infringed so that copying was possible?

“2. Is the defendant actually guilty of ‘copying’ part of the plaintiff’s protectable expression from the plaintiff’s work?

“3. Is the accused work ‘substantially similar’ to the work the plaintiff says was copied.”

Well that’s as clear as it can get, but there are always doubts about the blurred lines that no one knows about.

The case between Vanilla Ice vs David Bowie/Freddie Mercury comes to mind. There were also tweets that did not think the copyright infringement was such a big deal. They cited the David Bowie case here.

Vanilla Ice made headlines with their hit, “Ice Ice Baby” in 1991. However, they did not credit the song “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen. Vanilla Ice first denied it, but later on confessed to sampling the work. Of course, like most cases, this case, too, was settled privately, 99Designs reported.

It’s hard to say how the case is going to be settled, but looking at the history of music infringement cases, it won’t be difficult to assume that Justin Timberlake and the the artists will probably go on and settle the feud in private.

[Photo by Rick Diamond/ Getty Images]