The Music Pitch

Songwriters Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton have filed a $10 million copyright lawsuit against Justin Bieber and Usher over their hit single, “Somebody to Love.”  This sordid ditty begins back in 2008 when Copeland and Overton claim they first recorded the song for Copeland’s album, “My Story II,” and registered the copyright.  Music scouts Sangreel Media, in a conference call with Copeland, then pitched their copyrighted music to Jonetta Patton, Usher’s mother.  This presentation led to Patton telling Copeland that Usher wanted Copeland to re-record the album and tour with him.  But Copeland never from Patton again and Sangreel Media never returned the copies of his music.

The Copyright Infringement

Bieber copyright infringement

Bieber and the Law

Fast forward to 2010 and when Overton first heard Justin Bieber’s version of the song on the radio.  Overton contacted Copeland believing their song had been “clearly copied.”  Their copyright lawsuit claims that Usher and other songwriters directly copied “Somebody to Love” and tried to pass if off as their own.  This occurred after Patton never followed up on her offer for Copeland to tour with Usher and Sangreel Media never returned copies of his music.  Usher uploaded the demo track to YouTube by February 2010, but did not use it for his album.  He instead offered it Bieber, a YouTube sensation at the time working on his first full-length album.  The lawsuit alleges Bieber agreed to record the infringing version of “Somebody to Love” and Usher provided the background vocals.  The song was an immediate hit and Usher went on to release a remix with him singing lead and Bieber performing backup.

“Somebody to Love,” ultimately, helped propel Bieber up the charts.  He performed it at the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards, the Today Show, and other television appearances.  It also became a backbone for Bieber’s “Believe” tour.

The Lawsuit

Copeland and Overton ‘believe’ many similarities exist between their version and Bieber’s according to the lawsuit.  This includes opening lyrics that are nearly identical and the same beat pattern.  They claim that that Bieber’s copyright infringing song has been exploited through the sale of albums and singles, but also through the sale of sheet music and live concert performances.

Their lawsuit demands $10 million in compensation from Bieber, Usher, Usher’s mother, and others.  They also want punitive damages on top of the $10 million because of the heinous nature of the copyright infringement.  Copeland and Overton have stated that they are not willing to settle the lawsuit unless it’s proven in court that they are owed less, too.

A big payday awaits if Copeland and Overton can prove their copyright infringement claims in court.  The lawsuit also shows the importance of songwriters and composers registering the copyright to your music.

–          Ari Good, Esq.

Ari Good, JD LLM, a tax, aviation and entertainment lawyer, is the Shareholder of Good Attorneys At Law, P.A.  Ari Mr. Good received his BA, With Distinction, from the University of Michigan in 1993.  He graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and received his LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.  Ari represents DJs, live musicians, fashion models and other entertainers in copyright, licensing and contract matters.

Image by Mt. T in DC