Black Eyed Peas, Interscope Sued for Copyright Infringement, ‘I Gotta a Feeling,’ ‘Boom Boom Pow’

Hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas got slapped with a suit, last week, against them. The facts as reported from Beverly Hills Courier News are as follows:

“[T]wo separate but related copyright infringement lawsuits were filed today in the Southland against the Black Eyed Peas and the hip hop group’s record labels and publishers.

A call to a representative for the Black Eyed Peas, which was formed in East Los Angeles in 1995 and is fronted by and Fergie, was not immediately returned.

The first complaint, filed in federal court in Santa Ana, alleges the Black Eyed Peas intentionally copied Texas songwriter Bryan Pringle’s song “Take a Dive’ when they co-wrote and recorded their Grammy Award-winning hit “I Gotta Feeling.’

The other complaint is the re-filing in Los Angeles federal court of a lawsuit brought in January by Chicago artist Ebony Latrice Batts, aka Phoenix Phenom, and her producer and co-songwriter, Manfred “Manny’ Mohr.

That suit, originally filed in Chicago, accuses the Black Eyed Peas of copying the plaintiffs’ “Boom Dynamite’ for the band’s hit “Boom Boom Pow.’

Both complaints allege that UMG Recordings, Interscope Records and members of the Black Eyed Peas engaged in “a pattern and practice of intentional copyright infringement with respect to the unlawful copying of songs of unknown or lesser-known artists,’ according to plaintiffs’ attorney Dean A. Dickie of the law firm Miller Canfield.

The two suits seek damages, including all net profits received by the defendants as a result of the two songs, as well as future credits and royalty payments.”

I have dealt with the basic analysis on Copyright infringement suits and damages.  See Mary J. Blige ‘Take Me As I Am’ Copyright infringement suit.

For this suit, some key things to note:

Statute of Limitation

If you are a potential plaintiff and believe your copyright has been infringed on, don’t sit on it. There are statute of limitation laws (SL) with very strict time lines on when you should sue. The general rule is you have three years from the date you as a copyright owner should reasonably have discovered your copyright was infringed on to file suit.

This rule is strictly adhered to and if you don’t follow it, your case will be easily thrown out of court when challenged on SL grounds.

Intentional Copyright Infringement

When “intentional” copyright is alleged, it means the defendants are accused of bad faith. Like they have a really bad heart. They were mercenaries that knew the song did not belong to them but still stole it thinking they could get away with it. Nobody likes getting ripped off and the legal system does not like that either. So guess what, to really show the disdain society has for these bad characters that try to rip people  off, copyright infringement law meets criminal law.

If indeed the court finds willful (intentional) copying “for financial gain,” then we are talking federal crime punishable by imprisonment and fines.

How Does This Shake Out in Terms of the Time

  • Less than 10 unauthorized copies of infringed work  OR the value is worth less than $2,500 retail value then violators receive up to one year in prison and/or can be fined up to $100,000.
  • If it is more than $2500 in retail value, and the offense includes reproducing or distributing during any 180day period, 10 copies or more of copyrighted work, then it is imprisonment time of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

Is Black Eyed Peas et al going to do time, anytime soon, most likely not.

“I Gotta a Feeling” the Plaintiffs Will Collect MILLIONS in Settlement

What a ‘BOOM BOOM POW’ Hit to UMG, Interscope and Black Eyed Peas