UNIVERSAL AND SINGER JOHN NEWMAN DODGE COPYRIGHT INFRINGMENT LAWSUIT
Steven T. Lowe
Apps had urged the Ninth Circuit to hear her case against Universal Music and British singer John Newman (“Newman”) after a Nevada federal judge ruled that Apps failed to present enough evidence for a jury to find that Newman’s song “Love Me Again” copied her song titled “Need to Know.”
Notwithstanding Apps’ contentions that the lower court did not consider the “substantial evidence” she had shown regarding the songs’ similarities, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision.
“The only lyrical commonality between both songs is the phrase ‘I need to know now,’” the panel wrote. “[These] lyrics are not original to Apps. [Universal] showed that at least 11 songs predating Apps’ song included this common phrase.” The panel further added that Apps failed to show how Newman’s song infringed on her copyrighted work, noting that she could only argue that the disputed song sounded similar and not that Universal had copied the sound recording itself.
Apps first filed her lawsuit in Nevada federal court in May 2016, alleging that Newman had lifted key elements in his 2013 platinum single “Love Me Again” from her little-known “Need to Know.” According to her complaint, Apps had pitched the song to Jay Z, whose Roc Nation Entertainment has a partnership with Universal, the same label that put out Newman’s allegedly infringing track.
In September 2017, U.S. District Judge Jennifer A. Dorsey found that Apps’ two alleged encounters with Jay Z, once at a gym and another at a pre-Grammy party, were not enough to show that her song was connected to Universal based on the companies’ partnership.
In addition to granting summary judgment in favor of Universal because it was not the “appropriate defendant,” Judge Dorsey also dismissed the claims against the other defendants for Apps’ failure to serve them in time or request more time to do so. The Judge also turned down the songwriter’s request to amend her claims.
The panel has now upheld the lower court’s ruling finding that because Apps was unable to show that the songs were substantially similar, it did not need to rule on whether Universal was improperly named in the suit and whether she was wrongfully denied leave to add a different party.
Circuit Judges Mary M. Schroeder, Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Johnnie B. Rawlinson sat on the panel for the Ninth Circuit.
Apps is represented by Philip P. Mann of Mann Law Group.
Universal is represented by Jeffrey D. Goldman and Talya Goldfinger of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP.
The case is Apps v. Universal Music Group Inc. et al., case number 17-17122, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
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