Beyonce's 'B'Day' Over? Singer Pulls Deluxe Editions Due To Lawsuit
Three weeks after celebrating her second B'Day, Beyoncé is pulling the plug -- at least for now -- on the re-release of her recent solo LP. Thanks to a pending lawsuit over her cover of Des'ree's "I'm Kissing You" on her B'Day - Deluxe Edition album and video anthology, the singer and her label have agreed to stop distributing the albums and DVDs that include the song.
When Beyoncé sat down earlier this year with MTV News to discuss the new material featured on B'Day - Deluxe Edition, she mentioned that her version of the song -- which is called "Still in Love (Kissing You)" on the reissue -- wasn't originally intended for release and that she had just recorded it because she "always loved it."
"It was one of my all-time favorite songs," she said (see "Beyonce: Behind The B'Day Videos"). "It gives you this emotion -- I don't care who you are, you just feel it. So I just did it for myself -- a lot of songs, I do like that -- and I let people hear it and they were like, 'You are crazy, you have to put it on the album.' So I did. It was a last-minute decision."
Indeed, Beyoncé's team's paperwork -- included in the copyright-infringement suit filed in New York's Manhattan Federal Court last week -- depicts a rush to get permission to use the song, with letters sent back and forth up to and including the day of the deluxe edition's release. According to the suit, Beyoncé's team originally sought clearance on February 13 to use "interpolations" of the Des'ree song, which became a hit when it appeared in the Leonardo DiCaprio/ Claire Danes movie "Romeo + Juliet" in 1996. Lawyers for the two sides (Beyoncé and Des'ree's publishers the Royalty Network) started talking, and by March 3 -- a month before Beyoncé re-released her album -- Beyoncé's side had a "confirmation letter and license request" ready to submit.
On March 5, the Royalty Network's lawyers answered by submitting a counter proposal in which they granted permission -- within certain limits. For one thing, they would allow use of the song, but not in video form. They would also allow use of the song only if the title were not changed. The Royalty Network's lawyers at Epstein Levinsohn Bodine & Weinstein said in the complaint that "despite follow-ups," they didn't hear back from Beyoncé's camp. And on March 27, according to the complaint, they discovered that Beyoncé and her record label planned to proceed with their plans to include the song on the re-release anyway. In a letter they wrote to Beyoncé's lawyer and her distribution group Sony, the Royalty Network called the move "completely unacceptable."
"First, no agreement has been reached in connection with [the song]," the letter read, "and Sony has no right to proceed ... absent an agreement. Second, the retitling of the composition puts TRN at risk for claims from more than one third party, and this is a risk that [Beyoncé] and Sony were or should have been aware of in light of the circumstances surrounding the discussions relating to this potential license."
The Royalty Network then asked Sony to cease and desist from distributing the album with the song under a new title, and when Beyoncé and her label did so anyway on April 3, the Royalty Network deemed that "willful disregard." So a new letter was sent that day, saying the offer to allow Beyoncé to include the song on her album was withdrawn.
Then there was the matter of the Cliff Watts-directed video of "Still in Love (Kissing You)" on Beyoncé's "B'Day Anthology Video Album," which was sold separately at Wal-Mart. The video, which was shot on the beach in Miami, "feels like something you shouldn't be seeing," Beyoncé told MTV News -- meaning that it seemed like a home video because it was so "raw" and "natural." But the Royalty Network felt like it was something that shouldn't be seen for a different reason -- because they hadn't granted audiovisual rights even when they were leaning toward letting Beyoncé use the song. In a letter sent April 6, the Royalty Network called it a "blatant violation of the terms" they had set forth.
After filing the suit on April 16, the Royalty Network -- which seeks $150,000 in damages and an injunction to recall the deluxe edition from stores -- came to an agreement with Beyoncé's camp, filed Friday with the court, that Columbia and Sony would "engage in no further distribution" of the album or video anthology with the song in question, at least until a preliminary injunction hearing May 4.
Beyoncé's representatives had not responded to requests for comment by press time.