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By Chris Cooke | Posted on Thursday February 10th, 2022
The songwriters who accused Chris Brown and Drake of ripping off one of their tracks on the 2019 hit “No Guidance” have hit back in a new legal filing. According to the songwriters, Brown and Drake attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed over the alleged theft of the song.
Singer Braindon Cooper and producer Timothy Valentine sued Brown and Drake last year, claiming “No Guidance” ripped off their 2016 track “I Love Your Dress.” In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that “in addition to containing similar beats, the melody and lyrics used in the chorus/hook of ‘No Guidance’ – ‘you got it, girl; you got it’ – are so strikingly similar to those used in the chorus of ‘I Love Your Dress’ that they cannot be purely coincidental”.
As for how Brown and Drake heard “I Love Your Dress,” Cooper and Valentine pointed out that they sent a link to the album their track appears on to an A&R rep associated with Drake’s label then. Cash Money Records, who had approached Cooper to see if he had any new music to share.
In a legal filing last month calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed, Brown and Drake’s legal representative argued that the litigation was “based on the alleged similarity between the entirely generic lyrical phrase ‘you got it’ and the alleged similar (and not original) theme of an attractive, hardworking woman. No one, including plaintiffs, can own or monopolize the non-copyrighted phrase “you got it,” and it’s no surprise that phrase appears in countless other works. Moreover, lyrical themes are simply not protectable in law”.
As for the theory of how Brown and Drake may have heard “I Love Your Dress,” last month’s legal filing stated, “A charitable reading of the complaint is that the plaintiffs gave their song to someone in the music industry who may have known someone who knows one of the defendants involved in the creation of the defendants’ works, but the plaintiffs have no idea who that person might be, if it actually happened happened or when it happened.
But, as a new legal filing from Cooper and Valentine this week contradicts, that theory of how the defendants could have accessed the original lead is reasonable, and that’s all that’s needed at this point in the legal battle. And the slightly snobby implication that superstars operating at the level of Brown and Drake can’t have heard a song as obscure as “I Love Your Dress” is no reason to dismiss the song-stealing action.
“To properly argue ‘access’, a plaintiff need not allege that defendants actually saw or heard the relevant work, merely that they had a ‘reasonable opportunity’ to do so”, indicates the new legal file. “Here, despite the haughty assertion that famous artists like Drake and Brown could not have seen or heard the plaintiffs’ supposedly ‘obscure’ work, the complaint alleges facts supporting the inescapable conclusion that defendants had, at the very least, a reasonable opportunity to do so”.
Repeating these facts, the legal brief continues: “To be sure, as alleged, an A&R representative associated with the notorious label Cash Money Records – which the defendants claim was “responsible for helping the company find, sign and guide new talent.’ – identified Cooper as an artist of interest, actively solicited his work, and even offered to meet in Drake’s hometown. This alone disproves the defendants’ baseless suggestion that the work of the plaintiffs was so “obscure” that it should be considered practically inaccessible”.
As for the claim that the only real similarities between the two songs are a very short common phrase and lyrical theme, neither of which can be copyrighted, Cooper and Valentine insist that this is not is not the case, and that the defendants deliberately ignored the findings of some good old expert musicologists.
“Plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded facts that plausibly establish the required “substantial similarity” between the work of Plaintiffs and that of Defendants. As alleged in the Complaint, a proper comparative analysis of “rhythm, lyrics, hooking, rhythmic structure, meter placement, and narrative context” demonstrates that Defendants’ work was copied or primarily derived from Complainants’ work” .
They continue, “Defendants also blatantly ignore Plaintiffs’ allegation that ‘highly reputable musicological experts’ have already engaged in such comparative analysis and have concluded that the two works share a ‘high degree of similar characteristics’. combined “, which are unlikely to be found in combination in earlier musical works (although, separately, some similar features might be found)”.
So it’s all fun. Needless to say, the conclusion of the new legal filing is that the arguments made by Drake and Brown are not good enough to warrant dismissing this case at this time.
This lawsuit is being prosecuted in Florida courts. The trend of song theft cases across the United States – in courts sitting under the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, primarily California courts – has caused judges to be wary of overextending copyright protection to short lyrical or musical segments that share multiple songs.
While, meanwhile, the dispute over “Shake It Off” lyric theft has arguably also set a precedent in this circuit, judges should be careful not to unilaterally dismiss song theft cases on the grounds that the shared segments are too short and generic to enjoy. copyright protection, with such decisions perhaps best made by juries.
It will be interesting to see how a Florida court decides these issues.