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Bieber song copyright challenge fails the ear test, judge rules

Two songwriters who claimed they were ripped off when Justin Bieber and Usher recorded versions of the song “Somebody to Love” have lost their copyright challenge in Norfolk federal court.

Devin “The Dude” Copeland and Mareio Overton alleged they wrote a similar song in 2008 and shopped it to music producers. When Bieber and Usher hit it big with their song of the same name, Copeland and Overton sued for $10 million.

After listening to all the songs – there were three allegedly infringing versions – U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen tossed the Copeland-Overton lawsuit on Friday.

“Although the accused songs have some elements in common with Plaintiffs’ song, their mood, tone, and subject matter differ significantly,” Wright Allen wrote in an 11-page opinion.

A reasonable juror “could not conclude that a member of the public would construe the aesthetic appeal of the songs as being similar,” Wright Allen said.

Wright Allen rejected the songwriters’ call for a different analysis based on music industry professionals as the intended audience. Copeland and Overton said professionals would be quick to see similarities in the songs.

Since the professionals would be considering the songs based on public perception, however, Wright Allen said the proper measure is whether the public would view the songs as substantially similar.

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