Although federal judges at two different levels were offered a glimpse of some top pop performers’ supposedly cozy creative lives, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has knocked down like so many dominoes the elements of a plaintiff-proffered conspiracy theory about alleged copyright infringement involving a hit song.
That led the appellate judges, affirming a district court ruling, to give Jessica Cornish, the British singer, and chart-topping songwriter better known as Jessie J, a clear legal victory in early September over plaintiff Will Loomis.
He was a rising star in the Santa Barbara indie music scene and had claimed that Jessie J’s 2011 hit, Domino, infringed on Bright Red Chords, a tune that he and his band, The Lust, had limited success with in 2009.
A federal district court had tossed Loomis’ infringement suit against Jessie J, Universal Music, and its subsidiaries.
The court did not buy his theory about how Jessie J had gotten access to his song—a critical element, of course, in an infringement case—even though he named several pop stars and others as possible intermediaries. Among the performers whose names filled his suit: superstar Katy Perry, guitarist Casey Hooper, and the noted songwriters known as Dr. Luke ( Lukasz Gottwald), Max Martin (Karl Martin Sandberg). Loomis told the court how these creatives moved in out of their circles, including the time that two Dr. Luke and Martin, spent in Santa Barbara. He asserted this was possibly the way Jessie J could have had access to his song.
But, writing for the appellate court, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Clifton said there was no evidence presented beyond mere speculation from Loomis to show that any of the creatives the plaintiff cited had any role or input on any of Jessie J’s music or recordings. It is not “reasonably possible that the paths of the infringer and the infringed work crossed,” Clifton additionally wrote, adding, “At bottom, the record consists primarily of Loomis’s speculations of access unsupported by personal knowledge. The other evidence did not fill the breach.”