After a federal judge dismissed a frivolous lawsuit against Sam Smith and Normani’s ‘Dancing With a Stranger,’ the stars are chasing down the copyright accusers to foot their legal bills.
Sam Smith and Normani are demanding their copyright accusers reimburse their legal bills — a total of $732,202 — after a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit claiming they ripped off their 2019 hit “Dancing With a Stranger.” Given the “frivolous and unreasonable” nature of the lawsuit, Smith and Normani feel they shouldn’t have to foot the bill for their legal fees.
“Defective copyright infringement claims, like Plaintiff’s claims here, burden the court, cause potentially damaging negative publicity for recording artists, (and) force needless attorney’s fees on them,” writes the attorney representing the two stars, Peter Anderson. “Awarding attorney’s fees here will deter Plaintiff and others from filing and blindly prosecuting such claims without anything close to the required factual and legal basis.”
Last month, the stars successfully defeated the lawsuit filed last year, accusing them of stealing from an earlier song for their chart-topping hit. Filed by songwriters Jordan Vincent, Christopher Miranda, and Rosco Banlaoi, the lawsuit alleged that “Dancing With a Stranger” was “strikingly similar” to their 2015 track of the same name.
But US District Judge Wesley L. Hsu granted Smith and Normani’s motion for an immediate ruling, dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice. He stated that the two songs were not at all alike beyond their titles, criticizing the plaintiffs for “manipulating” them by “rotating chords, recalibrating the tempo, and altering the pitch” to make them appear to sound similar.
Winners in copyright lawsuits can often make requests to recoup their legal costs, unlike most forms of litigation. Judges will often grant such requests, especially in situations where a lawsuit should never have been filed. Doing so can serve as a potent deterrent against filing questionable lawsuits in the future.
“Plaintiff sought to monopolize unprotectable elements that are common property to all,” wrote Anderson, arguing the songwriters’ case was exactly the sort of “pointless lawsuit” the court should seek to deter. “Claims like Plaintiff’s here threaten to cheat the public domain and curtail the creation of new works.”
In response, AJ Fluehr, the lead attorney for songwriters Banlaoi, Miranda, and Vincent, released a statement that Smith and Normani’s demand for reimbursement “does not have merit, and we will be filing a comprehensive response,” as well as an appeal of the initial case.