Judge Tosses Band's Suit Against Osteens
A federal judge tossed out an indie-music duo's claims in a copyright suit against Joel and Victoria Osteen, but ruled the band's claims against Osteen's Lakewood Church could move forward.
The American Dollar claimed Lakewood and the Osteens had continued to use the song "Signaling Through the Flames" in ads for its DVD Supernatural, even though the band had only given Lakewood limited rights for a year. The rights expired in February 2011; Lakewood officials said they did not know the rights had expired.
Both parties agreed to use British Columbia copyright law during the case, as that was provided in their licensing agreement. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison said the agreement "does not entitle [Lakewood] to perpetual Internet use of the Composition for post-expiration productions. … Therefore, Plaintiffs' claims against Lakewood for direct and contributory copyright infringement should not be dismissed."
However, Ellison threw out the claims against the Osteens because The American Dollar "failed to state a claim for direct or contributory infringement against the Osteens." He gave the duo two weeks to modify their claim.
The American Dollar filed the suit last August, asking for $3 million in damages. In the suit, the band also expressed the desire to break ties with Osteen and Lakewood.
"[The American Dollar's] musical styles consist of meditative and inspirational instrumentals much like that of a dramatic motion picture soundtrack," the suit claimed. "[Record label] Yesh is not affiliated with any religious groups or political organizations, and does not desire to have its music associated with [Lakewood and Osteen]. Instead, Yesh desires broad marketing of its music without compromising its artistic integrity or alienate its niche following."
The group's lawyer, Jarrett Ellzey, told the Houston Press in August that The American Dollar didn't want to be tagged as religious music writers because of the Lakewood ads. "They don't want to be tied to a global televangelist for the rest of their careers, and a controversial one at that," he said.
Lakewood spokesman Don Iloff told Chron.com in August that the church had not realized the agreement had expired and had offered to renew it before the suit was filed. "Now they're asking for $3 million," he said. "They see deep pockets. This is about business."
(Video of the song in question after the jump.)