11 October 2016Copyright

Ed Sheeran’s lawyers ask court to dismiss wordy copyright suit

Lawyers representing singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran have asked for a copyright complaint filed against him by two US musicians to be amended or dismissed because it is too long.

In June, WIPR reported that Ed Sheeran had been sued for $20 million by Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard over his hit song “Photograph”.

The complaint was filed by Richard Busch from law firm King Ballow, and Paul Duvall and Mark Block from Wargo & French, at the US District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division.

The amended complaint was filed in September.

Harrington and Leonard said in the suit that “Photograph” had similar elements to their song “Amazing”.

“Photograph” was included in the album “X” (pronounced “Multiply”), released in the US in 2014. The song came out as a single a year later.

Sheeran’s lawyers, Michael Niborski and Ilene Farkas, of Pryor Cashman, filed a complaint about the amended suit at the court on Friday, October 7.

In the complaint, the lawyers asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit or strike from it “certain matter” that is “redundant, immaterial or scandalous”.

The complaint said: “Defying the most fundamental pleading requirement of providing short, concise and plain statements, the first amended complaint consists of 44 sprawling pages of prolix, repetitive, argumentative and scandalous allegations, made mostly on ‘information and belief’.

“It makes sweeping, generalised allegations—in 156 paragraphs, some of which go on for pages and contain upwards of 25 or 30 different sentences—against eleven distinct defendants.”

Further, the complaint said that the “courts have to take seriously the mandate contained in rule 8 of the Federal Rules, even to the point of dismissing complaints that violate the rule with prejudice”.

Rule 8 says that a complaint must include a “short and plain statement”.

Additionally, the complaint said that the “breathtakingly long paragraphs is the plaintiff’s attempt to allege sufficient ‘facts’ ... to support personal jurisdiction over the seven defendants that reside in the UK”.

Some of the other defendants were Polar Patrol Publishing, Sony/ATV Publishing and Warner Music UK.

A spokesperson for Sony/ATV Publishing told WIPR that this matter is not something it would comment on.

Jeff Van Hoosear, partner at law firm Knobbe Martens, told WIPR that the "assigned judge will decide if the first amended complaint is adequate or not after the motions are fully briefed".

He added that there will be briefing on the motions, and then normally a hearing before the judge. However, judges in the Southern District of California courts do not automatically hold hearings on motions, explained Van Hoosear. This procedure will likely delay the matter for several months.

Referring to how often these types of complaints happen, Van Hoosear said that "my sense is that complaining that a complaint is too long (at 44 pages and 156 paragraphs) is unusual and fairly aggressive".

It's more typical to have a defendant complaining that the plaintiff did not say (or allege) enough for the complaint to proceed.

"I think that the motion to dismiss on being 'wordy' is unlikely to succeed unless the court is convinced that the complaint is so unintelligible as to prevent the defendant from figuring out what they are being accused of doing. If the court can figure it out, but the complaint is simply terribly written, I think that the court is unlikely to do anything," said Van Hoosear.

He added that "given that the subject matter, parties, and attorneys involved would all qualify as 'high profile', I would have to think that both the 44 page, 156 paragraph complaint and the motion to dismiss it as 'wordy' were undoubtedly done with a purpose in mind".

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More on this story

9 June 2016   Singer Ed Sheeran has been targeted in a $20 million copyright infringement lawsuit by two US musicians, in a dispute centring on his hit song ‘Photograph’.