When Beyonce debuted her latest concept music video album “Lemonade” at the Super Bowl, a great many people took offense at the imagery and the choreography. Bey’s fans largely ignored them, and the woman herself simply used the criticism to sell a lot more records.
Then came something the fans might not be able to ignore and could cost Beyonce a great deal. A Kentucky man filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the singer, claiming the trailer accompanying Lemonade stole ideas from a film he had previously produced.
Bey’s fans came quickly to her defense. They declared Matthew Fulks’ suit had no basis in fact. Fulks, for his part, wasn’t listening. He named Beyonce, Columbia Records, and Parkwood Entertainment in the suit and took the case all the way to a New York court, where Judge Jed Rakoff dismissed the copyright infringement claim as having no merit.
While Fulks lost the case, there’s no doubt more people have now heard of his 2014 short film, Palinoia, than would have otherwise.
So, for Fulks, the suit, even being on the losing side, bought a ton of publicity to Fulks that he could never have afforded otherwise. Beyonce is one of the top Names in all of entertainment, among a small group that can get away with going by one name. By continually getting his movie mentioned in the same breaks and stories as Beyonce and Lemonade, Fulks enjoyed a massive publicity push, regardless of the outcome of his case.
That’s one reason why copyright cases can be popular, even when they don’t have a strong chance of winning. It takes a lot to win a copyright case, and the vast majority of cases filed simply don’t meet the criteria to move forward, much less earn a settlement.
But some do, and even when they don’t the result can be a ton of free publicity for the ersatz aggrieved party. It’s a sort of fame by association that, if played well, can yield massive dividends. Of course, this sort of gambit can easily blow up in your face if your PR team handles it poorly.