Cirque du Soleil
Justin Timberlake, et al.
"Don't Hold the Wall"
Comment by Charles Cronin
This dispute is atypical in that the plaintiff is not a relatively obscure musician going after a well-known, deep-pocketed entertainer and his corporate sponsors, but the well-known, and presumably financially solid, Cirque du Soleil. Its infringement claim, however, is as foolishly notional as those of desperate plaintiffs who base allegations of infringement on a common word, or a few pitches.
The contested snippet of “music” and sound is a brief, six-pitch vocalized motif without rhythmic structure or words embodying minimal musical expression. Even if Timberlake’s audio engineer sampled this snippet of sound directly from the plaintiff’s recording, its length and deployment are so insignificant that the taking should be deemed de minimus or a fair use.
The complaint (below) asserts that Timberlake sold more than two million copies of the album containing the contested song. Presumably that number has some relevance to the otherwise unexplained demand for damages of at least $400.000.