Pop singer Zayn Malik’s ongoing copyright infringement suit over his 2020 hit Better may be headed for dismissal as multiple defendants, including Sony Music Entertainment, submitted a motion to strike certain parts of the lawsuit.
As reported by Digital Music News, numerous defendants are seeking to have the complaint dismissed.
The lawsuit, filed by a company called Formal Entertainment in a US federal court in California in September 2023, accuses Malik and others of copying elements from a 2018 track titled Somebody Tonight by musician Havyn (real name Patrick Simmons). Formal Entertainment claims that Better wouldn’t exist without the alleged copying.
Havyn had enlisted Modern Music Marketing (MMM) to promote Somebody Tonight in the spring of 2020, according to the complaint, which can be read in full here.
The MMM contact identified the track as Havyn’s “best song” and offered to promote it for a finder’s fee if it led to a major deal. This contact allegedly forwarded the song to industry connections, including some of the current defendants.
The complaint named Zayn, whose real name is Zain Malik, as well as Sony Music Entertainment, which owns RCA Records, the label that released Better in 2020, among the defendants. Other defendants include five people credited as songwriters on Better: David Debrandon Brown (aka Lucky Daye), Dustin Bowie, Michael McGregor, Cole Citrenbaum and Philip von Boch Scully, who is also listed as the song’s producer.
Digital Music News reported that several defendants, including Sony Music and the song’s co-writers, have filed a motion to dismiss and strike parts of the complaint, on the grounds that the complaint lacks specific examples of similarities.
Denying any infringement, they argued that common musical elements like chord progressions and short melodies fall outside copyright protection. Additionally, they claim the complaint fails to establish that anyone with access to Somebody Tonight was involved in creating Better.
“First, bare references to melody and other musical terms without identifying any claimed similarities are insufficient,” the defendants said in the motion cited by DMN.
The motion for dismissal characterizes the plaintiff’s “failure to allege factual content establishing that a person with” access to Somebody Tonight had played a role in creating the relevant Zayn Malik track as a “fatal flaw,” the report said.
The defendants have also reportedly identified purported deficiencies related to the overlap of direct and vicarious copyright claims, asserting that a defendant accused of contributory or vicarious infringement cannot be directly liable for the same infringement.
The defendants’ legal representatives are scheduled to formally push for dismissal during a hearing on January 30.
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