Out of all the legal troubles Justin Bieber has encountered in the past few months, well maybe the past year, he gets off the hook in at least one of them. The pop singer, who is now turning his fame from pop sensation into troubled-star (with legal run-ins over accusations of egg throwing, driving under the influence and paparazzi smackdown) can now be referred to as a copyright infringement victor. We can call this a thing, right?
You know that song we could not get out of our heads, nor stop dancing to, as much as we wanted to because we were too old to be listening to Justin Bieber? Actually, there were probably a couple of Bieb songs of that order but the tune at legal hand would be Somebody to Love? Bieber and Usher, born Usher Raymond IV, were sued over it by two men who claimed the international stars ripped off their song. The plaintiffs were rap artist, Devin Copeland, whose stage name is “Devin the Dude,” and songwriter, Mareio Overton. They claimed that three versions of Somebody by Bieber and Usher infringed on their similarly titled song. Defendant’s three versions are Bieber’s and Usher’s collaboration (“Bieber accused song”), Usher’s own version (“Raymond accused song”), and a remix of the Bieber accused song. Sorry Plaintiff, but you don’t get a cool and dramatic name for your song, yours is simply labeled, “Plaintiffs’ song.”
Just to get some thoughts out there: The Somebody version by Justin Bieber and Usher sounded fresh enough so it could have been a remake of an original — and it was clear that it was not their original. But who scores the rights claim? The judge dismissed this case with prejudice, finding that these plaintiffs’ song was not intrinsically similar to any of the defendant’s three versions.
Plaintiffs tried arguing that the intended audience for their song was “industry professionals” but the court did not buy it. Pun intended. The judge found that because the industry professionals relied on the general public in terms of marketability, the actual “intended audience” was the general public. After listening to the songs at issue, the court determined that the general public, who would not be listening for similarities between the tunes, would not think the works were substantially similar. Thus, the judge concluded that no reasonable juror could find plaintiffs’ song and the three versions of defendants’ songs substantially similar.
Since no intrinsic similarity exists, the songs by Bieber and Usher do not infringe on plaintiffs’ tune. In case there’s a need for a clock rewind — before the Bieber’s current spate of legal challenges, here’s his version with Usher to remember a different Somebody: