Lawyers for high-profile musicians are singing a less than cheery tune after lawsuits targeting pop stars Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran over alleged copyright violations were filed in recent weeks.
Though it’s still early, entertainment attorneys worry the litigation could be the start of a bigger trend piggybacking on the $7.4 million “Blurred Lines” trial verdict won by the estate of Marvin Gaye in December. That ruling, which found songwriters and performers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” seems to have emboldened plaintiffs, according to Larry Iser of Santa Monica-based Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert.
“You have to expect post-‘Blurred Lines’ that plaintiffs’ lawyers are looking to file more of these suits,” he said.
Sheeran was sued June 8 in Los Angeles Federal Court for $20 million for allegedly lifting the tune for his single “Photograph,” which spent 18 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart last year. Songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, along with their publishing company HaloSongs, claim in their complaint that the Grammy winner derived his tune from their 2009 composition “Amazing” without proper attribution or remuneration.
“Harrington and Leonard had to sit by and watch Defendants receive awards, acclaim, and compensation without any of the proper recognition being received, as it should have been,” the complaint reads.
The Bieber suit – which also names DJ Skrillex as a defendant – was filed in Nashville, Tenn., in May by songwriter Casey Dienel, who alleges the pair’s song “Sorry” infringes on her work in “Ring the Bell,” which she composed in 2012.
The lawyer behind the Sheeran suit, Richard Busch of King & Ballow in Nashville, is the same attorney who sued over “Blurred Lines” on behalf of Gaye’s estate. Busch did not return a request for comment.
Iser said the spate of high-profile copyright suits could be short-lived. The verdict in the “Blurred Lines” case, which is on appeal in the Ninth Circuit, could be overturned because the jury was allowed to consider the “vibe” and “feel” of the songs as part of their decision, said Iser, which is not typically allowed.
“Some of the evidence that got to the jury was not musicological evidence,” he said, adding most copyright disputes over songs were previously decided out of court.
After close to 25 years in downtown, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy’s westernmost outpost is moving, well, farther west.
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