Mary J. Blige & Keri Hilson Sued for #Copyright Infringement on ‘Take Me As I Am.’

In Music Law, Trial by FASHIONENTLAW™

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I have covered copyright infringement suits on the blog. Here is a story regarding two celebrities Keri Hilson and Mary J. Blige who have been sued for copyright infringement. Pay attention to the damages sought here by the Plaintiff who instituted the suit. The Plaintiff seeks “an accounting for all singles and albums sold in all formats, royalties and an accounting of publishing income derived from using the song in advertisements.”

This is not uncommon in a suit of this kind where the parties are music professionals. It is also where things gets nasty.

What law Governs Copyright Damages/Accounting?
17 U.S.C. § 504 governs the recovery of damages and profits in a copyright infringement action.

What Does the Law Do?
If Plaintiff prevails in lawsuit, it allows the Plaintiff to recover either injunctive and/or compensatory damages. The easier part is obviously the injunctive relief. The court can say “stop selling or singing the ‘Take Me as I am Song” any and everywhere. The challenging part is how do we determine what is owed Plaintiff, the compensatory part?

What Kinds of Compensatory Damage Can Plaintiff Receive?
Plaintiff can opt for Actual Damages and profits OR Statutory damages.

What is Actual Damages and Profits all about?
17 USC § 504(b) (the copyright law) says Plaintiff can get actual damages suffered as a result of the infringement AND any profits attributable to the infringement that were not taken into account when calculating actual damages.

Plaintiff must prove:

  • Defendants (Keri & MJB’s)  gross revenue from the song was, for example, $50 million.

Keri and MJB (defendants) must prove:

  • Their deductible expenses and any element of profit not attributed to the infringement. So, the defendants here will say, “yes the song made $50million but we had so many expenses deducted that we only made $1million so you should get what the court determines is appropriate off $1million not $50million.”

It’ s a dual burden for the parties. When all is said and done, we should emerge with Keri and MJB’s net profits which will then be paid to Plaintiff.

What about the Statutory Damages?

  • § 504(c)(1) of the statute permits “statutory” damages. It means the law essentially gives a range of what you get. It’s prescribed, already.
  • § 504(c)(2) of the statute says if Keri & MJB “willfully” infringed on the Plaintiff’s copyright, then Plaintiff can recover enhanced statutory damages. So, if willful, the court would not allow the defendants to subtract their federal income taxes, overhead expenses and/or certain other expenses.

That is it from me, for now. Read about the lawsuit on Allhiphopnews.com.

‘Take Me as I am’

Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her firm’s fashion and entertainment law practice areas. Ms. Uduak has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts. She has also handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients including network television and licensing deals. Her work and contributions to the creative industry has been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA: ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also the author of Fashionentlaw™ and also has over two decades combined hands on industry experience in the creative industry which includes modeling, retail, fashion production, public relations, digital media, journalism and publishing. For further inquiries or if you are seeking legal representation, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). You may also follow her on twitter at @uduaklaw

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