The complete legal filing of the Justin Bieber and Skrillex “Sorry” lawsuit reveals the full extent of the highly publicized scandal that came to light just a few days ago. According to defendant, Casey Daniel, aka White Hinterland, the Skrillex-produced Justin Bieber single “Sorry” infringes on the copyright of her 2012 hit “Ring The Bell.” Daniel has left no stone unturned in the targets of her legal discourse. Those named in the suit are Justin Bieber and his Bieber Time LLC, Skrillex, Michael Tucker also known as Blood Diamonds, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, two professional songwriters, and every label and subsidiary involved in the distribution and publishing of the track including Warner-Tamerlane, Universal and Def Jam.
The suit goes on to label both Sonny Moore and Michael Tucker as the copyright “infringing producers” on the track. The focus of the infringement is the unique vocal rift featured on “Ring the Bell” stating that it is a qualitatively and quantitatively distinct and integral element of the piece of work.
Plaintiff’s “Ring the Bell” opens up with the signature and unique vocal riff, which provides the introduction and primary musical motive for the structure of the song. This vocal riff – also referred to as a loop, chant, or hook – is crucial to the sound recording and composition of “Ring the Bell,” creating the backbone for the composition and the song’s initial hook. After opening the song, the vocal riff repeats throughout, serving as a unifying thread for “Ring the Bell.”
The suit continues with a wealth of incriminating evidence and even goes so far as to make a connection to Diplo and his friendship with Justin Bieber and Skrillex. According to the lawsuit, because Diplo shares a label with the plaintiff he had direct access and knowledge of the existence of her song.
Prior to the creation of the music for “Sorry,” Skrillex, Diplo, and Blood allhad access to, and upon information and belief, were familiar with Plaintiff’s “Ring theBell” due to the widespread commercial release of “Ring the Bell,” the music press’s coverage and reviews of Plaintiff’s “Ring the Bell,” Diplo’s database of songs kept on his hard drive, Diplo’s and Plaintiff’s shared label family, and Rolling Stone
magazine’s coverage of Plaintiff and Skrillex in the same issue on two separate occasions.
The proof that her track was sampled in “Sorry” is seemingly undeniable, the extent to which is well documented in the filing. Not only do they break down exactly where the incriminating sample appears, but also that the pitch and timing are identical.
In scientific pitch notation, the four notes of the sampled female vocal riffof both “Ring the Bell” and the infringing “Sorry” are the same and the four pitches are of equal duration and are sung in a rapid succession by Plaintiff’s voice. The temporal spacing of the notes of the female vocal riff in both “Ring the Bell” and the infringing “Sorry” are the same.
The duration of “Sorry” is 3 minutes and 21 seconds. Defendants sample Plaintiff’s “Ring the Bell” for the first eight seconds of “Sorry,” and, then, Defendants repeat Plaintiff’s “Ring the Bell” at approximate intervals of 1:05-1:20; 1:27-1:30; 2:28-2:42; and 2:49-3:01.
Although Skrillex and Blood Diamonds have replied with their own rebuttal, there may very little recourse the two will have when this goes to court but it will present an interesting argument regarding copyright.
If the “Blurred Lines” verdict is any indication of how this will play out, and with over 1.4 billion plays on YoutTube alone, it’s safe to say that White Hinterland is owed a large sum of money from everyone involved.
For those interested in diving much deeper you can read the full filing here.
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