You’ve got kids, college tuitions, classes, boyfriends. You’re a wife, a father, a mother, an employee, a boss, a sister, a friend. You owe money to Visa or ride a bike to work; you swim on weekends or drive a car.
You’re a Regular Human.
I am, too.
That’s why Lady Gaga’s suing me for $1.4 million dollars is about YOU.
Throughout history, individuals working in lonely places – Einstein, Edison, Chopin, Virginia Wolf – bring ideas to life. Something happens when people go off on their own to create. Something original.
Ingenuity, it’s called in U.S., happens when men and women:
· tinker in garages and laboratories
· scribble in studies or cabins
· sing in latrines and bedrooms
· plunk guitars made from scraps when the bossman ain’t lookin’
· steal moments on a church piano.
…or simply hole up in rooms working passionately to write something, to figure something out, to follow the fire, to create.
Without exception, these men and women work…alone.
Others, humans of a different quality and kind:
· prance about in whacky costumes that kill the environment
· wear lingerie to their little sister’s college graduation
· release a steady stream of songs that sound like other people’s.
This is a different class of person entirely: the performer, the entertainer, the faker, the wanna-be.
I am of the first class of people; Lady Gaga is of the second.
A little background.
I sued Lady Gaga in August 2011 for allegedly plagiarizing my song “Juda.”
My allegation remains that my ex-engineer/ex-bass player/ex-boyfriend Brian manipulated and used my “Juda” ProTool sessions – which he has copies of – as original source material for songs he sent Lady Gaga.
You see, unlike real songwriters, Lady Gaga is, like her getups, fake. She has other people write for her, then takes the credit. It happens a lot in Hollywood today.
So in spring of 2010 Lady Gaga sent her people to sniff around for original songs for her upcoming album Born This Way.
Remember that song? Madonna’s Express Yourself?
Anyway, my ex-engineer Brian (like most excellent musicians) was one of the first, penniless, class. Talented, but bereft of connections.
His associate DJ White Shadow, however – a wanna-be if ever there was one – had contacts, lots of them. You know, DJs, right? They play other people’s songs? They don’t write them?
And so the duo, like Kafka’s bumbling twins, sent along “their” versions of my songs, to Lady Gaga.
Brian believing likely: “It doesn’t matter anyway, she’ll never pick ‘mine’.”
DJ White Shadow believing they’re his songs now because he changed them.
Either way – shockingly, unexpectedly – The Queen of Gag liked them.
A reasonable ending would have been Brian coughing up the truth.
Instead, Lady Gaga released “Judas” as her song, and when I heard it, I felt a hard cold stone in the pit of my stomach.
· our choruses are nearly identical (I repeat “Juda Juda Juda Juda Juda” over and over and she repeats “Juda, Juda-us, Juda, Juda-us, Juda, Juda-us” over and over), accounting for roughly 20% of each song
· our verses are both percussive and monotone in style (roughly 44% of each song)
· our breakdowns are nearly identical (12% of each song)
· a prominent melody line written by my violinist is the same as her “Oh oh oh oh oh I’m in love with Juda-ah, Juda-us”
· she pronounces “Judas” as “Juda-us.” <– Whaa??
Among other “coincidences.”
But not so weird if they used my Pro Tools session “Juda” as source material to create “Judas.”
The chances of the above similarities occurring between two works that share the same bass player, recording engineer, and “writer” (at least in the case of “Judas”) would be like getting struck by lightning five times in the same place on the same day.
But only one of us attended the circus-like depositions, so you’ll have to believe me when I say Lady Gaga/Stephanie’s recounting of “how she got the idea for Judas” would be enough for any sane individual (not being paid off) to side with me.
Or at least grant us a fair trial by jury.
As it stands we’ve watched Bieber and Lil’ Wayne bumble through depositions thanks to TMZ, but Lady Gaga’s deposition is protected like Fort Knox. The Lady Gaga, Inc. PR machine enacted rules of silence and privacy so thick, so protective, that her deposition will never see the light of day.
It’s a shame.
Methinks the Queen would be eating cake herself if the public saw what I did.
Anyway, I can only compare Stephanie/Lady Gaga’s explanation for “How she got the idea for the song ‘Judas’” to that scene in Working Girl when “Tess” (Melanie Griffith) easily details her idea’s wacky zigzag inception while her boss “Katherine” (Sigourney Weaver) bullshits something vague.
The fact that a judge declared “Judas” its own entity after listening to her lyrics alone – which sound like high school English papers in the 80s, riffing on bullshit or “borrowing” from encyclopedias – is madness.
But I digress.
In July 2014, after three years of litigation, a 1934-born (bless his heart) Judge Aspen decided that since an “ordinary observer” wouldn’t be able to tell the songs are the same, I lose.
He was able to shut down the case without trial because of a growingly popular corporate legal loophole gaining steam in recent years known as “Summary Judgment.”
That’s when the corporate-funded side (Lady Gaga, Inc.) calls for a judge – one man – to decide the issue.
The “American” thing to do, of course, would be for a jury of my peers to hear the case and decide for themselves.
Twelve Regular Humans, mind you, hearing her load of crap.
Would have been priceless.
But even that isn’t why I’m writing.
Copyright law is not so simple, or my case wouldn’t have taken three years to get blown out of the water.
Access to a person’s work (in my case, direct from my ex Brian) usually holds a lot of weight in copyright infringement suits, even more so than similarity of songs.
But a new trend is upon us. Judge Aspen, and the rest of the Seventh Circuit court, don’t consider direct access very important anymore in copyright claims.
Their most recent rulings stand as a body against individual creators (me) and in favor of corporate structures that put out music today (i.e. Lady Gaga, Inc.) by ruling that it doesn’t matter if your friend gave it to Lady Gaga: An “ordinary observer” (whatever that means) would have to be able to hear that the songs are the same.
This discounts the ease with which people through digital manipulation can steal and re-use original material well detailed by Mark Helprin in Digital Barbarism.
And also implies that Judge Aspen, a lifelong employee of the U.S. military and U.S. government, and born in1934, is an “ordinary observer.”
Consider the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Peters v. West. Although Peters’ lawyers proved that Kanye West ripped off a vocal straight out of one of Peters’ song, manipulated it, and used it, “an ordinary observer” couldn’t tell that it had been ripped off.
So Kanye West won, and Vincent Peters lost.
That’s like saying Kanye West can come into your house, make a copy of the novel you’ve been writing for the last ten years, change it just enough that an “ordinary observer” wouldn’t recognize it, and it’s his.
Or Lady Gaga can access your ProTools files, manipulate a song you wrote and recorded, change it just enough that “ordinary observers” wouldn’t recognize it. And it’s hers.
What does this mean?
The ethical problems with the Seventh Circuit’s current position are profuse, and their favoring of corporate interests (Kanye, Gaga) over individual artists and writers (Peters, me) is scary for democracy and disheartening to say the least.
But that not why I’m writing, either.
I’m writing because a nuclear missile has been fired at us Regular Humans.
It is a missile that says, “Stand up for your rights, and you will pay.”
Lady Gaga’s team of important business folk – all of whom enjoy monstrous assets, vacation homes, swollen bank accounts – have decided that I need to be made an example of.
Taught a lesson.
Shown who’s boss.
Taken out back.
“Sue that bitch for $1.4 million dollars. Teach the nobodies they can’t come after the queen.”
Teach the nobodies they can’t come after a corporation.
Why else would they sue me?
They know I’m of that first class of fools, an idea generator, a creator.
They know I don’t have money.
They even know, as Bob Dylan wrote, “When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.”
So why are they suing me for $1.4 million?
Because this move is not about me.
It’s about YOU.
Their move is a shot across the bow, a threat, an act of intimidation.
They are suing me to scare YOU. They want YOU to be afraid to stand up for yourself. They want YOU to remember that Lady Gaga, Inc. – and all corporate powers – will fuck up your shit if you try to stand up for your federally protected rights.
They want all Davids to bow to all Goliaths.
And it is this move, this bullying, this intimidation, that has finally forced me to speak.
Consider how you would feel if your child, friend, parent, or sibling were a writer, artist, or songwriter – or a scientist or inventor – and went through the legal steps to say: “Hey, look, I filed a copyright. I allege you took my work. Now let’s decide how to make things right.”
A trial by jury, or a judge, might rule against him or her. That would hurt. Your loved one might endure the extreme stress associated with taking on a corporate monster whose PR machine, lawyers, publicity hounds, and mass media are aligned against his or her (individual) interests.
But the world is hard and things don’t always go your way.
Losing is not the issue here.
It is being penalized for even filing the case that’s wrong.
Your friend, child, or sibling should not be given a bill for $1.4 million dollars for asserting his or her federally protected rights against corporate America.
Put another way, asserting your federally protected rights in the U.S. should not cost $1.4 million dollars.
But it does now.
That means today, rights really are a “privilege” reserved only for the few.
There’s one shining star at the end of the rainbow, I guess.
If the punishment fits the “crime,” the powers that be want us Regular Humans to know that if we stand up to a corporation, they’ll bankrupt us. They’ll slam us with a $1.4 million dollar bill if we cry foul.
These people with all their money and power and glory want us to know this – bad.
So bad they put it in all their papers yesterday.
That means they’re afraid of us.
And this…is power.