BELLAMY ATTORNEY ISSUES LEGAL STATEMENT REGARDING BRITNEY SPEARS SINGLE
On February 21, 2011Today, attorney Christopher E. Schmidt, legal representation to country music's the Bellamy Brothers, released the following statement in response to pending legal action against pop star Britney Spears:
The Bellamy Brothers have been artists, in the true sense of the word, with over 50 hit songs; more than 20 of those songs reaching the No. 1 position in the country charts over the past 35 years. The music business has given them the rare opportunity to enjoy making a living writing and playing music all over the world. Even though David and Howard are some of the nicest and most down to earth guys you will ever meet, they are also smart and experienced businessmen. So naturally, David asked me for my legal opinion of whether or not the Britney Spears recent single "Hold It Against Me" infringed on the copyright of their song "If I said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me" that David wrote in 1979.
In my opinion, it is not necessarily the similarity of the titles that is of legal concern. This would be more of a trademark issue. Rather, the issue is whether or not the exact lyrics "would you hold it against me" are used in the same way in the hook of the song. It becomes somewhat uncanny if you simply double the beat of the Bellamy Brothers' song and match it up with Britney's version. Literally thousands of fans for both artists have also taken notice. They are scratching their heads questioning whether or not Britney's song "lifted" part of the song previously written by David Bellamy. But for me, the scale tips substantially in knowing that Dr. Luke not only co-produced Britney's song with Max Martin, but that Dr. Luke also co-wrote the song with Max Martin and others. This isn't the first time Max Martin and Dr. Luke have been accused of copyright infringement.
Dr. Luke was sued in 2007 for copyright infringement along with Avril Lavigne and her record label for "lifting" portions of Avril's hit song "Girlfriend." The suit subsequently settled in 2008. There is also a current Katy Perry song that features Snoop Dogg called "California Gurls" produced and co-written by Dr. Luke and Max Martin (among other writers, including Katy Perry) where The Beach Boys' record label has filed a diminutive claim against the writers and publishers of the song for credit and royalties. Dr. Luke was party to yet another copyright infringement suit in 2008 for the song "Feels Like Tonight" by Daughtry. Although this is not conclusive evidence that Dr. Luke intentionally lifted a phrase from a Bellamy Brothers song, it certainly shows a possible pattern and warrants a more serious look into the matter.
As a transactional attorney primarily focusing on managing my clients' careers and protecting their intellectual property, I had a duty to bring in the heavyweights to help us further evaluate the situation. I put a call in to Daniel Moskowitz who is a friend and colleague with the Nashville law firm King & Ballow. Daniel had mentioned to me before that one of the partners in the litigation section of his firm, Richard Busch, had won a multi-million dollar suit against Universal/Aftermath Records for Eminem. Richard also received a jury award of over four million dollars for his clients against Bad Boy Records. Most importantly, I recalled Daniel telling me that Richard recently established new precedence regarding copyright infringement in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit when the court affirmed a ruling that copyright infringement may occur by the copying of a single common word such as "Dog," if the alleged infringer uses that word in the new composition in the same way as it was used in the original musical composition.
This past week, the Bellamy Brothers and I met with Richard Busch to engage his services and handle this matter appropriately. Richard has submitted the two songs to a renowned musicologist for evaluation and expert opinion. From here, it is just a matter of trying to work things out amicably with everyone involved.
Christopher E. Schmidt, Esq.