Filmmaker Sues Beyonce for 'Lemonade' Copyright Violations

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on June 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or if you're Beyonce, you make Lemonade, a visual album that generates tons of press and speculation. The release by the pop goddess has stirred up lots of talk about her married life and role as wife to Jay-Z, as well as chatter about cultural matters, like who is Becky with the good hair. But now, reports the Associated Press, Queen Bey has been stung with a lawsuit claiming that the trailer for her visual album violates copyright.

Moody Blues

Filmmaker Matthew Fulks says that the trailer for Lemonade -- viewed 11 million times on YouTube since it was posted in mid-April -- contains clear violations of his copyright. He argues that this is not just one instance of infringement or a tiny piece of his piece but a pretty serious chunk. Fulks filed suit in federal court in New York seeking unspecified damages, and naming the pop singer, her management company, Parkwood Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment, and Columbia Recording Corporation as defendants.

According to the filmmaker, Beyonce's Lemonade trailer is substantially similar to his 2014 short film "Palinoia." Fulks says that the mood, setting, pace, and fonts in the pop star's visual album resemble those he chose for his film. In fact, more than half was inspired by Fulks if his claims are to be believed. He says that 39 seconds of the 65-second Lemonade trailer look like his film and points to nine specific instances in which the trailer resembles his earlier work.

The independent filmmaker says that Lemonade began filming a few months after he released "Palinoia" and that members of Beyonce's production team saw his film. Beyonce and the other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the claims, according to the Associate Press.

Does that mean they copied Fulks? Well, not necessarily.

Considering Visual Similarity

Fulks is from Kentucky and Lemonade was filmed in Louisiana, both southern states. Beyonce's work is a gritty film, to the extent that a production for a pop star can be, so Fulks may have felt that he, with his southern sensibility, inspired this approach to the singer's film.

But it's possible for multiple artists to perceive beauty similarly and it happens all the time. Moodiness is not a quality that's exclusive to one southern filmmaker, or even five or ten. So it's not clear, then, without more information, that the filmmaker's ideas were stolen and his copyright infringed upon, as his lawsuit claims.

Maybe Fulks is just being paranoid ... or rather, palinoid. Or maybe when life gives him Lemonade, he tries to make money.

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