Closing arguments in the suit disputing whether Paula Abdul was the sole lead vocalist on her Virgin Records debut album “Forever Your Girl” were delivered Wednesday, with both sides emphasizing the case is being closely watched by the entertainment industry.
Attorneys for Yvette Marine got a minor boost Tuesday when U.S. District Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima dismissed Virgin’s counterclaim that alleged Marine had slandered the label and its key executives.
Marine is suing Virgin, claiming her voice was blended with Abdul’s on key songs, creating a co-lead vocal. The suit alleges Marine is entitled to a share of Abdul’s royalties and should be identified as a co-owner of the copyrights of the songs, including the hit single “Opposites Attract.”
Laurence Berman, co-counsel for Marine, told jurors the “entire record business” is watching the outcome of the trial “so they know what they can get away with.”
“Virgin is asking you to suspend common sense and move into their world of make-believe,” Berman said. He alleged that mix-notes from the recording session and electronic re-creations of the songs show two distinct vocalists singing lead, despite protestations from Virgin counsel that Abdul was the only singer and Marine merely a backing vocalist.
Berman claimed that conservative estimates put the label’s take on Abdul’s multiplatinum disc at $ 51 million for worldwide sales. Abdul’s share, he said, should be $ 1.5 million per song. He asked the jury to at least award Marine half of Abdul’s earnings on the two songs, “Opposites Attract” and “I Need You.”
He also suggested the jury look at other songs that Marine contributed to, and add to the award. “I’ll leave that for you to decide,” he said.
Berman used a rubber duck for emphasis, occasionally holding up the toy or tapping it on a makeshift lectern to drive home his point about the two voices sharing lead.
“If it walks like a duck, it must be a duck,” Berman said. “Yvette Marine is a duck, she ain’t a frog. She sang everything (Abdul did). She’s a lead vocalist.”
Abdul quietly slipped into the courtroom for the start of the afternoon session, which marked the beginning of closing remarks for Virgin Records’ attorneys.
Attorney Joseph Yanny put forth a colorful and at times blunting attack on Berman’s remarks. Yanny, whose closing arguments veered from lessons in constitutional law and history to arguing the facts of the case, used Abdul’s presence in the front row to “put a face on the corporation.”
“She is the person behind this conflict,” Yanny said of Abdul. “One cent of award would destroy this woman’s career.”
Yanny, who held up his own toy duck when he referred to Berman’s closing remarks, warned jurors not to “duck the issues in this case.”
“This is not about teaching big, bad multinational corporations a lesson,” Yanny said, repeatedly referring to Marine’s lawyers as “the tassled-loafered set.”
Imploring the jury to send a message to “this set,” Yanny also recounted witness misstatements and deflated the technology used by the plaintiffs to support their claims by saying, “You don’t need any meters or charts,” he said. “You hear it.”
Yanny characterized Marine as “playing fast and loose with AFTRA,” alleging that the singer failed to report income from session work as a way of shoring up a loss of earnings claim in another matter.
Also highlighted for the jurors was Marine’s resume, on which she referred to herself as a backing vocalist on the Abdul album.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations today.