When Beyoncé Gives You Lemonade, File Lawsuit
On June 8, 2016, Beyoncé was sued in a copyright infringement action by independent filmmaker Matthew Fulks. Fulks alleges that nine visual similarities amounting to 39 seconds of Beyoncé’s 60-second Lemonade trailer for an HBO special are substantially similar to images from Fulks’ short film PALINOIA. Fulks, who is also suing Parkwood Entertainment, Sony Music, and Columbia Records, is seeking unspecified damages based on money generated by Lemonade.
Fulks alleges PALINOIA had been seen by a member of Beyoncé’s team, who subsequently recreated several scenes in the Lemonade trailer. Fulks claims to have sent links of PALINOIA to Bryan Younce, senior vice president at Columbia Records and director of other Beyoncé videos. Filming for Lemonade began five months after the alleged exchange between Fulks and Younce.
The complaint notes the similarity in the construction of the two videos, and contains screengrabs to show specific comparisons between the two. Specifically, the complaint states: “the misappropriated content includes both the particular elements that the Plaintiff chose to comprise the Palinoia Work and the coordination and arrangement of those particular elements.”
The alleged similar scenes from Lemonade include scenes from a dimly-lit parking garage, a “red person with eyes obscured” scene, an “overgrown grass” scene, and the trailer’s opening shot, which depicts a graffiti wall and a person with their head down.