Copyright Law

6th Circuit ‘Bow Wow Wow’ Opinion Cited by Lawyer Eyeing Suit Against Britney Spears

A federal appeals court decision involving copyright protection for dog-related words is emboldening a lawyer for the Bellamy Brothers.

A statement by lawyer Christopher Schmidt sees similarities between the Britney Spears pop song “Hold It Against Me” and the Bellamy Brothers country music song “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me,” written in 1979.

“In my opinion, it is not necessarily the similarity of the titles that is of legal concern,” Schmidt says. “This would be more of a trademark issue. Rather, the issue is whether or not the exact lyrics ‘would you hold it against me’ are used in the same way in the hook of the song. It becomes somewhat uncanny if you simply double the beat of the Bellamy Brothers’ song and match it up with Britney’s version.”

A “renowned musicologist” is evaluating the two songs, Schmidt says, and Nashville, Tenn., lawyer Richard Busch has been retained.

Busch obtained favorable precedent when the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) infringement may occur when a new song repeats important and well-known words and phrases from a prior work. The decision favored a music company that bought the rights to a song written by funk recording artist George Clinton. His composition and the infringing song had repeated the word “dog” as musical punctuation and had used the phrase “bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yay.”

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