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Justin Bieber and Usher could face song theft trial without expert witness

By | Published on Wednesday 6 April 2016

Justin Bieber

As a long-running song theft lawsuit against Justin Bieber and Usher works its way to trial, the latest twist in the tale is that the defendants may not be able to bring any expert witnesses into court.

As previously reported, Devin Copeland and Maerio Overton claimed in 2013 that Bieber track ‘Somebody To Love’ features various lyrical and stylistic similarities to a song they wrote with the same title, which Copeland released under the name De Rico in 2008. Copeland also claimed that he had given a copy of his recording to Usher via the star’s mum. The case was initially dismissed in 2014, but then reinstated on appeal last year.

So, the whole thing is going through the motions again. But, according to The Hollywood Reporter, annoyed by ongoing delays in the case, judge Arenda L Wright Allen recently refused to extend a deadline for submitting expert testimonies to court, even though both plaintiff and defence had agreed to an extension. It was Bieber and Usher’s legal team who were hit by that decision, because they’d picked a particularly busy musicologist to be their expert, and said musicologist couldn’t meet the original 21 Mar deadline.

Last week, Bieber’s legal reps filed an emergency motion asking the judge to reconsider, saying: “The effect of the order is to preclude defendants from presenting expert testimony on any subject, including copyright infringement and damages. Defendants believe the court could not have intended to prevent defendants from serving expert reports altogether, and that this was merely an unintended consequence of the court denying the motion in whole rather than denying it in part”.

The defence adds that, had they realised the court wouldn’t allow a deadline extension, they would have found a less busy musicologist to be their expert. But now Bieber and Usher could have to fight the $10 million lawsuit without having an expert on their team to say “what you talking about, these songs are nothing alike!”

“It would constitute ‘manifest injustice’ to preclude defendants from serving expert reports and presenting expert testimony”, continued the motion. “Especially the opinion testimony from a musicologist with unparalleled credentials, whose expertise is necessary to enable the trier of fact to accurately assess the similarity (or lack thereof) between the parties’ musical compositions”.

The case is currently slated to reach court in October.