Joel and Victoria Osteen, pastors of Houston-based Lakewood Church, have been slapped with a $3 million copyright infringement lawsuit by a little known New York band named The American Dollar.
The legal dispute centers on a song by band mates Richard Cupolo and John Emanuele, titled “Signaling Through the Flames,” which the Osteens used in television commercials for their DVD, “Supernatural.” The plaintiffs and their publishing company, Yesh Music, claim the pastors used the song without permission.
The songwriting duo signed an agreement last year that allowed use of their song by the Osteens and Lakewood but the agreement was only for one year and expired back in February, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Jarrett Ellzey. The band claims that the church has been using the song after the agreement expired.
Ellzey acknowledged to Houston Press that his clients were told by their publisher that their song would be marketed to a few megachurches. But the pair did not know, the lawyer said, that Lakewood, America’s largest church, would be one of the targets.
"They don't want to be tied to a global televangelist for the rest of their careers, and a controversial one at that," Ellzey told the local publication.
Despite their licensing agreement with the Osteens and Lakewood, the suit by Cupolo and Emanuele, and their publisher, asserts that “Yesh is not affiliated with any religious groups or political organizations, and does not desire to have its music associated with Defendants,” as reported by Houston Press.
Ellzey also said that the band cleared their song for use by the Osteens and Lakewood in a streaming web video and in live performance, but not in any video of those live performances.
The songwriters say they are asking for $3 million in damages because the 58-second clip of their instrumental “contributed to the success of the Defendant’s DVD and their marketing campaigns for other products, and substantially increased revenues and profits” for the Osteens and Lakewood, according to Houston Press.
In response, Lakewood spokesman Don Ilof said the two musicians are “apparently confused about the scope of the license, and are now demanding $3 million for uses that are authorized. We think this is unreasonable,” as reported by click2houston.com.
Iloff also told the Houston Chronicle that the church did not realize its licensing agreement had expired and offered to renew it before the band filed suit. “Now they’re asking for $3 million,” he said. “They see deep pockets.”
Lakewood Church in Houston is the largest church in the country with more than 40,000 weekly attendees.
The Christian Post contacted Lakewood Church but did not receive an immediate response.