A federal judge ruled in favor of Lakewood Church last Tuesday in a copyright court case involving Senior Pastor Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria, versus Richard Cupolo and John Emanuele, who perform as indie music duo "American Dollar."
Cupolo and Emanuele filed the suit against the Osteens and Lakewood Church in August 2011, arguing that Lakewood Church continued to use the duo's song, "Signaling through the Flames," after the year-long copyright agreement had expired. The duo sought $3 million in damages.
A 58-second clip of the song was used in advertisements for the DVD "Supernatural," which features Joel Osteen offering inspirational words on God's plan for every individual. According to the music duo, their song continued to be featured in advertisements for the DVD after the one-year copyright contract had expired.
According to the case's documents, as released by the U.S. District Court of Houston, Texas, on Feb. 14, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled that "the licensing agreement unambiguously limits perpetual-use Internet rights to those productions created or revised prior to the agreement's expiration."
Jarrett Ellzey, the lawyer for Emanuele and Cupolo, told the Houston Press blog "Hair Balls" in August 2011 that the musical duo does not want to be forever categorized as religious music writers.
"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 Hair Balls. "They have aspirations to market their music to Hollywood productions."
Lakewood Church spokesman Don Illof called the lawsuit "unreasonable."
"The music in question is one minute of background music, which Lakewood Church had to license to use," Illof told KPRC-TV in Houston in Oct. 2011.
"The plaintiff is apparently confused about the scope of the license and are now demanding $3 million for uses that we think are authorized. We think this is unreasonable," Illof added.
The judge specifically dismissed the claims against Osteen and his wife, but gave the defendants two weeks to amend their suit, the Houston Press reports.
Osteen is senior pastor of Lakewood Church, located in Houston, Texas. The non-denominational Christian megachurch is one of the largest in the country, reportedly boasting more than 43,500 persons in attendance per week.