Norfolk, Va. - Norfolk is now the battleground for a legal smackdown involving two of the hottest recording artists on the charts today.
Two songwriters, Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton, say Justin Bieber and Usher took their concept and song and made millions.
Now the two artists are speaking on for the first time about the song they say cheated them out of a chance to join the musical big leagues.
The song is titled, “Somebody To Love.” Justin Bieber recorded a version, as did megastar and Bieber mentor, Usher.
In a filing at Norfolk Federal Court, Bieber, Usher and at least 20 other defendants are named in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
“For me to put my blood, sweat and tears into my work and I feel like no one else should get credit for it,” says Copeland.
Copeland, who uses the stage name “Derico” and his writing partner, Overton, allege they wrote and recorded songs for some talent scouts.
They also claim those talent agents played the song for Usher and Bieber. They claim their work ended up on a Bieber CD in 2010 and on an Usher remix.
NewsChannel 3’s Barbara Ciara: “They basically told you they were going to market your stuff to Usher?
Ciara: Did they ever tell you they had gotten it to Usher?
Copeland claims the Usher camp courted him for an upcoming concert and he will never forget one very important call from Usher’s mother.
They never called back.
The lawsuit has been in the making for nearly a year. Attorney Duncan Byers hired music experts to analyze the music beat by beat.
“We ended up spending over a year working with a music expert and a mathematician and a statistical analyst to do a comparison of the songs themselves,” Byers says.
The Bieber version is up-tempo from the one recorded by Copeland, but Overton says there was no mistaking the song when he first heard it on the radio. “As I was listening to the verses, okay, this sounds familiar. This is familiar and the hook is, oh this is, this is us!” says Overton.
It will be a long legal road in a case that may be the David versus Goliath battle in the music industry.
“There’s a feat if you do this, you’ll then never be able to actually be recognized and be able to make an independent name for yourself as an artist because you’ve dared to challenge the industry,” says Byers.
It’s a risk these young artists seem to be willing to take if it means retaining ownership of their artistic property.
“It’s like going against a giant. How do you climb that mountain? How do you get those people without them knocking you down?” Overton asks.
Calls to the Bieber and Usher camps were not returned.
Once all parties are served notice of the lawsuit, they will have 21 days to respond to the complaint.
The response may give us a glimpse of what’s to come once this headline-making court case lands before a jury in Norfolk Federal Court.