Judge dismisses lawsuit against Bieber, Usher

Justin Bieber (above) and Usher said their song was based on a November 2009 version, not the plaintiffs’ 2008 creation.
Justin Bieber (above) and Usher said their song was based on a November 2009 version, not the plaintiffs’ 2008 creation.
Justin Bieber and Usher (above) said their song was based on a November 2009 version, not the plaintiffs’ 2008 creation.
Justin Bieber and Usher (above) said their song was based on a November 2009 version, not the plaintiffs’ 2008 creation.

NEW YORK • A United States federal judge has recommended that a US$10 million (S$14.2 million) lawsuit accusing Justin Bieber and Usher of illegally copying parts of their song Somebody To Love from two Virginia songwriters should be dismissed.

In a report on Monday, Magistrate Judge Douglas Miller said Devin Copeland and his cousin Mareio Overton failed to show that Bieber and Usher had access to their 2008 song, also titled Somebody To Love, before creating their own work in early 2010.

The lawsuit was originally dismissed in March 2014, but a federal appeals court, in a rare reversal in such cases, revived the case in June last year, saying a reasonable jury could find the songs' choruses "intrinsically similar".

Bieber and Usher, whose full name is Usher Raymond, said their song was based on a November 2009 version by songwriter Heather Bright and a production trio, The Stereotypes. The plaintiffs countered that music industry executives had made their song available to the singers sooner.

But in his 32-page recommendation, the judge found a lack of evidence that the defendants had heard Copeland's and Overton's music before Bright and The Stereotypes created their song.

The Norfolk, Virginia-based judge also cited testimony from a New York University musicology professor that the songs were not "strikingly similar", despite some commonality in their hooks.

Miller also called the title itself "generic", with more than 100 artists, including Jefferson Airplane and Queen, having already recorded songs titled Somebody To Love.

The recommendation will go to US District Judge Arenda Wright Allen, who entered the March 2014 dismissal and who will decide whether to again dismiss the case. Other defendants included publishers Universal Music Publishing Group and Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

A version of Somebody To Love recorded by Bieber, and credited to him as a co-writer, peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2010.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Judge dismisses lawsuit against Bieber, Usher'. Print Edition | Subscribe