Beyonce
Beyonce Giselle Knowles.

The Fifth Circuit yesterday affirmed a summary judgment in favor of singer-songwriter-movie star Beyonce Knowles, whom Jennifer Armour accused of copying the "hook" in her "Got a Little Bit of Love for You".  The hook, according to the complaint, found its way into Ms. Knowles’s "Baby Boy".  The court affirmed the summary judgment because Ms. Armour didn’t produce evidence that Ms. Knowles had "access" to "Little Bit of Love" at the time she created "Baby Boy".  (Note:  You can’t "copy" something you didn’t have access to.)  Armour v. Knowles, No. 06-20934 (5th Cir. Dec. 21, 2007).

Blawgletter would normally end there, but the case exhibits a few points we’d like to share. 

First, an admission by Ms. Armour — that she didn’t send a demo tape to Ms. Knowles’s business associates until after the crucial date of creation — prevented a finding that anyone sufficiently close to Ms. Knowles had "access" at the relevant time.  The admission trumped a contrary affidavit.

Second, a "mysterious", "unidentified", and "elusive" man — who went by "T-Bone" — might have gotten a demo tape in time, but Ms. Armour didn’t present enough evidence to justify a reasonable jury in finding that T-Bone actually gave the tape to Ms. Knowles.  That Ms. Armour’s manager honestly believed T-Bone was a good friend of Ms. Knowles didn’t prove that they were good friends.

Third, we bet somebody had fun writing this:

The lyrics [from "Little Bit of Love" and "Baby Boy"] differ in word and substance:  Armour’s evidence somewhat less love for her "ba-by" — "a l’il bit" — and somewhat more control over such love, which she can "stop" or "make grow;" Beyonce’s suggest a deeper and more stubborn love, which pervades her thoughts, dreams, and "fan-ta-sies."

Finally, and unfortunately, the opinion doesn’t disclose its author, using the per curiam designator instead.  We can’t tell which of the three panel members — Circuit Judges Higginbotham, Smith, and Owen — wielded the pen. 

Too bad; it’s a strong, readable, and lively opinion; and we’d like to give credit where it is due.

Barry Barnett

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