Who's holding what against who? Unfortunately, it's not as sexy as it sounds.
Super-producer Dr. Luke is not taking the Bellamy Brothers' plagiarism charges lying down. He's taking them to court, contending that the country duo's claims that he and Britney Spears ripped off "Hold It Against Me" from their similarly titled '70s smash are a "smear campaign" that amounts to defamation. He also wants a court order establishing that Spears' song has nothing to do with the Bellamys' "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)."
You might be tempted to call it a countersuit, except it's the first actual legal action here. The Bellamy Brothers have not yet sued Britney and Dr. Luke; they've only issued press releases threatening to do so, evidently in hopes of getting a settlement out of the pop queen and her collaborators. Dr. Luke's answer, apparently, is: Settle this, you mustache-twirling cowpokes. (Or legal words to that effect.)
The Bellamys were far from the first to publicly note the strong resemblance between the lyrical hooks of the two songs. When Britney's single was released, many media outlets pointed out the obvious similarity between the key phrase in each tune. The initial press release from the Bellamys' camp even quoted a Yahoo! Music blog pointing out the unoriginality.
What the Bellamy Brothers' press release didn't quote from Yahoo! was the part where we pointed out that the phrase wasn't original to them, either. As the bros hae openly acknowledged over the years, they lifted it from Groucho Marx, who uttered a variation on the pickup line to a contestant on his '50s game show You Bet Your Life. (And for all we know, Groucho stole it from somebody on the old vaudeville circuit... who ripped it off from someone in the mother country... who based it on the pickup lines of Plato.)
But the Bellamys seem to be resting their case on a finessed argument that maintains the way in which the phrase is used can be owned and protected, even if it's become a somewhat common saying. Their lawyer, Christopher E. Schmidt, said in a Feb. 21 statement: "In my opinion, it is not necessarily the similarity of the titles that is of legal concern." Which should come as a relief to every guy who thought trying it out on a girl in a bar could constitute copyright infringement. "This would be more of a trademark issue. Rather, the issue is whether or not the exact lyrics 'would you hold it against me' are used in the same way of the hook of the song. It becomes somewhat uncanny if you simply double the beat of the Bellamy Brothers' song and match it up with Britney's version."
In other words, if you take an old single of the 1979 hit and play the few seconds where the title appears at 78 rpm, the rhythmic resemblance is spooky.
Everyone here might have a point: The Bellamys have the right to be ticked off that the distinctive title of one of their two most famous songs has been appropriated... and Dr. Luke has a right to be ticked off that they're calling him a thief. (Surely he's additionally distressed over the lawyer's reminder that other Dr. Luke/Max Martin compositions, like Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," have also been accused of copping from oldies.)
But does either of these opinionated grievances really rise to the bar of being legally actionable?
If only one or both of these cases did make it to the docket, and the judge turned out to be a guy with a huge mustache... no, not David Bellamy, but Groucho himself... who would surely bang a gavel and say to all parties, "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception."
- Britney Spears