Beyonce's special edition hits copyright snag

Updated: 2007-04-28 08:33

Beyonce Knowles

Columbia Records is facing the prospect of having to pull the new deluxe edition of Beyonce's "B'Day" from stores amid a dispute over publishing rights.

But rather than recalling the release altogether, multiple sources say Columbia parent company Sony BMG plans to manufacture and distribute a new version of the deluxe edition, minus one track featuring the challenged copyright.

At the heart of the controversy is the track and accompanying video "Still in Love (Kissing You)," a reworking of Des'ree's 1996 song "I'm Kissing You."

The Royalty Network, a publishing company administering the copyright on behalf of Timothy Attack, co-writer of the song, alleges that Sony BMG didn't receive its permission to use "I'm Kissing You." It is pressing the matter by filing a copyright infringement complaint with the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York --a move that has led to a temporary halt of distribution of the albums.

Sony BMG, Sony BMG Sales Enterprise, Beyonce, her B-Day Publishing company and EMI April Music are all named in the suit.

A preliminary injunction hearing is set for May 4, which could require Sony BMG to permanently stop distributing the copies of "B'Day -- Deluxe Edition" and the special Wal-Mart version "B'Day -- Deluxe Edition/Video Anthology," and perhaps even remove unsold discs from stores. As part of the temporary cease-and-desist, "Still in Love" has been yanked from digital services and its video has been pulled.

Retail sources estimate that Sony BMG has shipped several hundred thousand copies of the deluxe editions to date. The editions, which include the top 10 hit "Beautiful Liar," a duet with Shakira, have sold 214,000 copies since their release at the beginning of April, Nielsen SoundScan reports.

Both retail and legal sources suggest that the matter can still go away for the right price. But retail sources say Sony BMG seems disinclined to settle. The company has put the word out that the current version of "B'Day -- Deluxe Edition" is no longer available for order and that it plans to issue a replacement soon. The cost is expected to be minimal to Sony BMG, because most of the product that had initially hit stores has been sold and the company needed to manufacture more units anyway, sources say.

Reps for Sony BMG, Columbia and Beyonce didn't respond to requests for comment. Anthony Motta, attorney for the Royalty Network, declined comment.

Though copyright clearance flaps are common, such disputes rarely lead to CDs getting yanked from stores. What becomes of remaining unsold copies of "B'Day -- Deluxe Edition" remains to be seen.

Brett Wickard, owner of Bull Moose Records in Maine, says they won't likely immediately disappear from store shelves, no matter what the court rules.

"When records are recalled, retailers can't (remove) them immediately, and sometimes the customer hears about it and runs out to buy it," he says. "They think it will become a collector's item."

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