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Judge recommends summary judgement in favour of Justin Bieber in $10 million song-theft case

By | Published on Wednesday 16 November 2016

Justin Bieber

A judge reviewing the ongoing song-theft lawsuit involving that Justin Bieber and his old mate Usher has recommended a summary judgement be made in the two popstars’ favour, which would be a second victory for the duo in the same dispute.

As previously reported, Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton first claimed in 2013 that Bieber’s 2010 track ‘Somebody To Love’ featured various lyrical and stylistic similarities to a song they wrote with the same title, which Copeland released under the name De Rico in 2008. Copeland also claimed that he gave a copy of his recording to Usher via the star’s mum, giving him an opportunity to hear the original. The case was initially dismissed in 2014, but was then reinstated on appeal last year.

A key reason why judge Douglas Miller has now skewed against Copeland is that he is not convinced by the claimant’s various explanations for how the defendants were exposed to his song, including the Usher’s mum route. That’s mainly because the core songwriting team behind the Bieber hit – Heather Bright and production trio The Stereotypes – finished the original version of the song in November 2009, and there’s no real evidence that they could have heard Copeland’s ‘Somebody To Love’ before that time.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, in his review of the case, Miller rejects the idea that “ambiguity in the factual record” means that the court could infer that Bright et al had indeed heard Copeland’s track, while the judge points out that the claimant’s proposed timeline of events is contradicted by the testimonies of six separate people.

In terms of the how similar the two songs are – bearing in mind they were deemed similar enough for the case to be reinstated by that court in 2015 – Miller acknowledges some common elements, though then favours a report by one of those musicologists filed by the defence that concludes that the elements in common are too generic to be protected by copyright. So, that old dilemma.

And while both songs have the title and lyric “somebody to love”, well, yeah, the defence identified 130 different songs using that title, not least the Queen hit, of course.

Miller’s recommendation will now go to a district judge who will make the final decision over whether or not to grant a summary judgement in favour of Bieber et al, though it seems unlikely he’s going to reject his judicial colleague’s conclusions.