(CN) – Justin Bieber and his mentor, Usher, “clearly copied” the song “Somebody to Love” and its remix, two songwriters claim in a $10 million federal lawsuit.
Devin Copeland, professionally known as De Rico, and his song-writing collaborator, Mareio Overton, say Copeland first recorded the song on his album “My Story II” in 2008.
A year earlier, a promoter had introduced them to scouts of (nonparty) Sangreel Media, who presented their copyrighted music to R&B singer Usher Raymond IV, the songwriters claim in Virginia Federal Court.
In January 2009, Copeland teleconferenced with a Sangreel scout and “an individual who identified herself as Jonetta Patton, Usher’s mother and on-again, off-again manager,” the lawsuit states.
Patton allegedly told Copeland that she and Usher were interested in having Copeland re-record his “My Story II” album and tour with Usher that summer.
“Sangreel never returned any of its copies of Copeland’s “My Story II,” and plaintiffs heard nothing further from Patton or any other representative of Usher,” the songwriters say.
Patton and Usher then conspired with four songwriters — Ray Romulus, Jonathan Yip and Jeremy Reeves, collectively known as the Stereotypes, and Heather Bright — to “directly copy” Copeland and Overton’s song “Somebody to Love” and pass it off as their own, according to the lawsuit.
Usher allegedly recorded the song as a demo track, with the Stereotypes producing, and uploaded it to YouTube by or before February 2010. He ultimately decided not to use the track on his album, but brought the song to YouTube sensation Justin Bieber, who was recording his first full-length album at the time, according to the complaint.
“Bieber agreed to record his infringing version of “Somebody to Love” with Usher performing the background vocals and the Stereotypes producing the song,” the lawsuit states.
The song was a hit, and in April 2010 Usher released a remix with him singing lead vocals and Bieber performing backup.
When Overton first heard Bieber’s version of the song on the radio in 2010, according to the lawsuit, he “immediately contacted” Copeland and told him that the song “was clearly copied” from their version.
Their complaint lists more than a dozen “points of congruence” between the two works, including the same underlying beat pattern and “nearly identical opening lyrics.”
They say their song has not only been exploited through the sale of multiple albums and singles, but “is also being infringed by and through sheet music sales and live concert performances.”
Bieber performed the hit live on the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and on the “Today” show, among other televised appearances, and has been performing it on his “Believe” tour, according to the lawsuit.
Copeland and Overton want Bieber, Usher, his mother, the Stereotypes and a slew of music companies to pay $10 million plus punitive damages for direct and vicarious copyright infringement.
Remaining defendants are: songwriter Heather Bright, B-RHAKA Publishing, Please Enjoy the Music, Products of the Street, Sumphu, Universal Music Corp., The Island Def Jam Music Group, Stage Three Music, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Bieber Time Publishing, WB Music Corporation, Universal Music Corporation and Universal Music Publishing Group.
Plaintiffs are represented by Duncan Byers of Norfolk, Va.
- More Racial Profiling Claims in NYC
- Patient Blames Kaiser Care for Eye Hemorrhage