Beyonce Sued for Allegedly Lifting Short Film to Create 'Lemonade' Trailer

Parkwood Entertainment
Beyonce in a still from the Lemonade visual album, 2016.

The plaintiff -- a creative director at a news station -- claims that a member of the pop superstar's team has acknowleged seeing his work.

Beyoncé unleashed Lemonade without much advance hype, but about a week before an her album dropped amid an accompanying HBO special, she posted a trailer on YouTube. According to a new lawsuit filed in New York, this trailer was copied without permission from a short film titled Palinoia.

The plaintiff in the case is Matthew Fulks, who identifies himself as both an independent filmmaker as well as the creative director at WDRB. Fulks says he conceptualizes, writes and directs TV advertisements for the Louisville, Kentucky-based news station.

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In the complaint, Fulks theorizes how defendants including Sony Music, Columbia Recording and Beyoncé's Parkwood Entertainment got access to Palinoia.

Fulks says he was contacted about the opportunity to direct a video by the Columbia-signed musical group MS MR, and as a result, links to Palinoia were sent to others including Bryan Younce, who has created videos for Beyoncé and has been credited on her self-titled 2013 album. The lawsuit claims that in July, 2015, Younce requested Fulks' email and would send the plaintiff a note acknowledging that he had received his "info" with invitation to submit a treatment for consideration by Columbia.

Five months later, the filming of the Lemonade trailer and film began.

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Fulks is sour at what he sees.

"The number of aesthetic decisions included in Plaintiff’s PALINOIA Work that are parroted in Defendants’ LEMONADE Trailer demonstrates that the LEMONADE Trailer is substantially similar to the PALINOIA Work," states the complaint. "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."

Specifically, the complaint cites nine visual similarities comprising 39 seconds of a 60-second trailer. The images allegedly taken come without any linear narrative raison d'etre. The visual similarities are "graffiti and persons with heads down," "red persons with eyes obscured," "parking garage," "stairwell," "black and white eyes," "title card screens," "the grass scene," "feet on the street," "side-lit ominous figures," all adding up to a supposed total concept and feel substantially similar to the short film.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Amy Cahill at Cahill IP along with Robert Clarida, also claims similarities in auditory time and includes some unusual graphical elements to demonstrate this. Here's a taste:

Fulks is demanding all profits attributed to exploitation of his work including from sales of the Lemonade album. A representative for Parkwood Entertainment hasn't yet responded to a request for comment. Here's the Lemonade trailer and the Palinoia film for full comparison.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.