Justin Bieber and Usher Ordered to Face Copyright Lawsuit

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 19, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Justin Bieber and Usher thought they were off the hook for a copyright lawsuit.

Well, they're back on the hook now. A copyright lawsuit against them for the song "Somebody to Love," dismissed last year, was recently revived by a three judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

The First "Somebody to Love" Lawsuit

In 2010, Justin Bieber released "Somebody to Love" on his My World 2.0 album. The song reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year.

Two Virginia songwriters, Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton, claim that Bieber's "Somebody to Love" copied their own song of the same title. In May 2013, the two sued Bieber and Usher for copyright infringement. The songwriters argued that they wrote the song in 2008. Music scouts allegedly played their song for Usher, and Usher took the song for Bieber to sing. The lawsuit claimed that the two songs had the same beat pattern, time signature, and similar chords and lyrics.

Dismissal and Revival

In March 2014, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen dismissed the lawsuit. After hearing the songs, Allen ruled that the songs were sufficiently different that no reasonable jury could find copyright infringement.

The dismissal was appealed to the Fourth Circuit. There, three judges listened to the songs again. This time, the judges ruled that the songs were similar enough. Circuit Judge Pamela Harris wrote in the decision, "After listening to the Copeland song and the Bieber and Usher songs as wholes, we conclude that their choruses are similar enough and significant enough that a reasonable jury could find the songs intrinsically similar."

What the Fourth Circuit Ruling Means

It may sound like Copeland and Overton won the lawsuit because the judges said that the songs are similar. However, the judges' ruling is not a judgment on the case. The ruling only means that the case should be heard by a jury because there is a possibility that the jury could rule either way.

Now, the case will be sent back to District Court to proceed with trial. Copeland and Overton are asking for $10 million in damages.

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