The artist who unsuccessfully pursued a song-theft lawsuit against Sam Smith and Normani has argued that his company shouldn't have to cover any of the defendants' legal costs. Or, if it must, then the $730,000+ that the Smith and Normani side have demanded is way too high.
Artist Jordan Vincent claimed that Smith and Normani's 2020 hit 'Dancing With A Stranger' ripped off his earlier song ‘Dancing With Strangers’.
However, the judge overseeing the case was not convinced. He concluded that the elements shared by the two songs were not protected by copyright in isolation, and the argument that Smith and Normani had copied the way those elements were selected and arranged was not compelling.
Having defeated the lawsuit, Smith and Normani would like their legal costs relating to the dispute paid for by Vincent's company. Under US copyright law, a court can award legal costs to the winning party in copyright cases.
This article notes that the US Copyright Act and relevant case law suggests that, when deciding whether to award legal costs, a court should consider “the degree of success obtained on the claim; frivolousness; motivation; objective reasonableness of factual and legal arguments; and need for compensation and deterrence".
A legal filing from Vincent's company this week arguing that it shouldn't have to cover any legal costs states: "The copyright claims filed by plaintiff were objectively reasonable, were not frivolous, and were filed in good faith. The factual claims themselves were narrow and did not overreach. They were hard fought and involved multiple competing experts".
It then raises various other issues with the legal costs claim made by the Smith and Normani side, including the total costs being pursued, which exceed $730,000.
Even if the court does decide to award costs, the legal filing adds, "the overall amount requested, over $730,000, is out of line with the limited nature of the case, and is much higher than that requested in more intensive and longer cases".
We await to see how the judge responds.