Judge Puts Lawsuit Against “Lemonade” on Ice

Proving once again she will not be stopped, a judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Beyoncé that claimed she stole the idea for her Lemonade album from a short film.
Back in July, shortly after the trailer for Lemonade was released, a filmmaker and T station creative director from Kentucky named Matthew Fulks filed a lawsuit claiming Beyoncé stole his idea, pointing to his original short film, Palinoia, released in 2014.

According to reports, Fulks claimed he sent several emails to senior management at Columbia, Beyoncé’s label, at the time, and in 2015, he was contacted by Chris Thomas, her manager, to work on a video for another group, MS MR. As part of the correspondence, links to Fulks’ film were included and passed to the group’s manager, also at Columbia. Fulks was invited to submit storyboards and a development plan, but then the correspondence stopped…until he saw the trailer for Lemonade with the rest of the world.

He claimed there were numerous visual and stylistic similarities between the trailer and his film. “The misappropriated content includes both the particular elements that the Plaintiff chose to comprise the Palinoia work and the coordination and arrangement of these particular elements,” according to the lawsuit, filed in June.

Beyoncé’s lawyers responded to the suit in classic Beyoncé fashion: they obliterated his claims.
Lemonade is the story of “an African-American woman who progresses through the stages of suspicion, denial, anger and, ultimately, reconciliation in her relationship,” while Palinoia is about a “white man who is distressed in the wake of a failed relationship,” according to Essence.

In asking the court to dismiss the suit, Beyoncé’s lawyer, Tom Ferber, argued that the similarities noted by Fulks (including the use of a parking garage and stairwell, a grassy scene and feet on the street) were too broad to be in the realm of copyright infringement.

“A straightforward comparison of the parties’ work provides a textbook example of what does not constitute a legally cognizable claim of infringement,” according to the motion to dismiss filed by Ferber. “The SAC describes elements and features of the works in abstractions so broad as to be meaningless—because, as even a cursory review of the parties’ works makes clear, at the level of copyrightable expression the works are markedly dissimilar.”

Following a hearing in late August, the judge presiding over the case, US District Judge Jed Rakoff of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, agreed with Beyoncé’s team last week.
In a simple statement, Judge Rakoff says only that “Upon full consideration of the parties’ briefs and oral argument, the Court grants defendants’ motion. A memorandum explaining the reasons for this ruling will issue in due course, at which time final judgment will be entered.”

Here are the two pieces of work in question–what do you think?


Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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