Deee-Lite singer loses Sega lawsuit

Lady Miss Kier claimed Sega misappropriated her likeness in Space Channel 5, but court disagrees.

by

Deee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier, singer of the early 1990s club hit "Groove Is in the Heart," lost a 3-year-old court battle over the use of her likeness yesterday. The decision was a costly one for Kier--real name Kierin Kirby--as the singer/DJ has to pay more than $600,000 in legal fees to Sega of America, the game maker she sued.

Kirby, singer for the '90s retro-funk-dance group that disbanded in 1995, claimed that Sega's Space Channel 5 game based its character Ulala on Lady Miss Kier.

Kirby claimed that Sega approached her in 2000 and said it "was considering using one of several music videos or songs, including 'Groove Is in the Heart,' to promote Space Channel 5 (SC5) in England and Europe." Kirby said she declined the offer and refused to give Sega permission to use her songs, likeness, or anything else.

When Kirby saw how much the SC5 character looked like Lady Miss Kier and noticed that her name Ulala resembled what Kier sings after the chorus of "Groove Is in the Heart," she filed suit in Los Angeles in 2003.

But Sega was able to convince the court that not only had the company created SC5 long before 2000--it was released in Japan before 1999--but that Ulala's creators had never even heard of Deee-Lite or Lady Miss Kier prior to creating the character.

Kirby appealed the case, but the California Court of Appeals upheld the decision. The court also found that Ulala "contained sufficient expressive content to constitute a 'transformative work' under the test articulated by the [California] Supreme Court," making Ulala "more than a mere likeness or literal depiction of Kier."

The worst part for Kirby is that California law stipulates that an unsuccessful plaintiff in such a case must pay the defendant's legal fees. Sega incurred attorney's fees of $763,000, which the trial court reduced to an award of approximately $608,000. The court also ruled that Kirby must pay the company's legal fees for the appeal. The case has been remanded to the trial court to determine the amount of additional fees Kirby must pay the company.

Discussion

83 comments
_Sam_
_Sam_

interesting, I didn't know about this

nekrotaunter
nekrotaunter

that song was terrible and now i'm thinking about her ugly face and gang in the stupid video.

neovalkyr
neovalkyr

Sounds like the B got sodimized. Serves her right in my opinion.

sigma8
sigma8

Sega did basically copy her style, wholesale. But ripoffs aren't illegal, unfortunately. Well, actually I guess that's fortunate. Space Channel 5 was a pretty good ripoff.

hirmetreus
hirmetreus

I look like harry potter. Cry more. The Video game is a tribute. Half the video evidence is really not that related(copying a cartoon drawing style, pfff) and her dancing around on stage is compared to....another person dancing around on stage. original. Its a REALLY BAD likeness, but its clear some of the moves got into the game somehow. They were likely very popular moves, so if SEGA is the only ones to have ever used them, maybe she would have a half decent case. In case you dont know, Ulala's hair colour is pink not red, and the game is set in space. Funnily enough, using the same word in a song isnt illegal, as much as she wants it to be.

dryden555
dryden555

for anyone who was around in the early 90's and is familiar with both the band and the Sega game, there is much more than a passing similarity. Her lawsuit wasn't bogus.

crithon
crithon

...... I need a brief pause when I hear her last name is IRONICLY "Kirby." Sure, I found Mrs Kirby and Ulala very simular but there are laws saying you can basicly rip off a character unless you maintain like 20% orginality. And still it's more about a character design debate then actually using "living person's likiness without their expressed concent."

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

Sorry to tell you, but when this game came out, a few people did think the main character was based on her from the looks. And yes, while that game may have been in development before they approched her, the fact that they did approach her would could cause some to raise an eyebrow. She took a shot and lost. And while some of you call her a has-been, whenever some car company decides to used that friggin' song in their ads, she gets paid more than most of us get paid in a year. So please, let me be a has been!

Cablestein
Cablestein

When I first saw Space Channel 5 advertising, I totally thought it was connected to Deee-lite somehow.

puablo
puablo

Can they pay Bootsy Collins $5 for being Bootsy Collins? I kinda feel sorry for the out-of-work girl having to pay $600 thou. But hey, that's what you get for being sue-happy.

sailor_alphac
sailor_alphac

I think part of the problem with the lawsuit was that she claimed that she was approaced in 2000, but considering how long it takes to make a video game, Sega could easily prove that she was incorrect in that part of her case. As for not ever hearing of her before the game was made, I had never heard of the Japanese band that this is based on, so it's a fair assessment that they didn't hear of her. And, btw, "World Clique" is a very fun album (unless you hate that kind of music). I actually liked "Who Was That" and "What is Love?" more than "Groove is in the Heart", but these were fun songs from the very early 90s. I feel sorry that she lost her case, and moreso because of where she filed. I don't agree that the California law should be national simply because she genuinely believed that her likeness was stolen. It's not as if there aren't simliarities (I thought of her when I played the game; but it really wasn't her personality), it's just that there was sufficient evidence to prove that she was wrong.

ApisBee
ApisBee

LOL. Just a has-been looking for a free meal ticket. That's not a freckle on my nose, it is a PIXEL!

trav523
trav523

wow, before watching the video of her evidence on her site, i never realized she invented swinging your arms while you walk, or eyeshadow, or short skirts, or the phrase "oh la la".. i hope sega was just first on her list to sue, because i know TONS of people who swing their arms when they walk.. she'll be a gabillionaire!

sainraja
sainraja

I don't know if anyone noticed who checked her website but she sued Sony too. "lady kier Lady Kier VS Sega Below is some of the evidence that was submitted to the judges in the lawsuit against SONY/SEGA/Space Channel I disagree with the judges recent ruling but I am posting this to let you be the judge. " I don't see what Sony had anything to do with that game so does anyone know?

myrllellei
myrllellei

Bootsy Collins and a Slide Whistle = Dance Craze

snozberry
snozberry

A bunch of zero-hit wonder sheep bleating together that a talented musician is a "one-hit wonder", how lame. It sounds to me like she got some bad legal advice, and got in over her hot little britches. I don't see how you feel about the lawsuit gives you people the right to slam her music or the fact that her band broke up. I saw her on MTV a few times and she seemed really nice. I hope she saved her money. "World Clique" is a pretty good CD by the way, for those of you who only have heard the one song.

Oni
Oni

Good. I mean how money gubbing can you get? Please get over yourself and move on. Hey Lady Miss Kier, the 90's called and they want their failed hasbeen 1 hit wonder back. Maybe she should sue Nintendo for stealing the name "Kirby"! :)

UpInFlames
UpInFlames

So much fuss over a crappy game and a musical hasbeen. Hrmph.

MacRuckus
MacRuckus

i guess ill sue sega for using my likeness to make sonic the hedgehog

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

What's she going to do next, sue the 1960s?

Bonzeemer
Bonzeemer

Ouch! Sega ripped her off good. Just too much evidence to ignore.

shinchy
shinchy

Since her whole style and image is a rip off of 60's fashion it should make it obvious she's not original in the slightest.

CMakaCreative
CMakaCreative

Damn, she goes to court trying to get some money & ends up owing. Talk about ironic. If she could build a time machine, I'm sure that would be one of the first stops she'll make (accepting the deal, get better band members for her group...). Was the game even that popular? And how much was she sueing for? Does it really resembles her? Not to me. I'm sure she'll be doing a lot of selling on Ebay. $600K is nothing to laugh at. I thought I owed money. The only reason I even remember "Dee-Lite" & that silly song was mainly because Q-Tip was on that song (big Tribe Called Quest fan here). Other than that, the song was forgettable. But why can't I get that dumb song out of my head now.....AAGGGHHH!!!!! NOOOOOO!!!!!

Slash_out
Slash_out

Good job Sega. i don't want some crappy unknow singer to me, rip off Sega's money, and keeping us from having good games :p

snarple_basic
snarple_basic

sucks for her i hope she can caugh up the money lol might need to right up a new hit.

appleater
appleater

:lol: Ouch is right. Wasn't there a Michael Jackson-type character in SC5? Why didn't he sue?

Cainekass29
Cainekass29

Groove Is In The Heart or whatever was a wack song anyway. I am glad Sega won. I bet she wished she signed the deal now.

smerlus
smerlus

talk about adding insult to unjury

VicMackey
VicMackey

A forgotten one hit wonder has to cough up $600k she DEFINITELY doesn't have to the periennial also-ran of the gaming industry. Actually I love SEGA (!) and count their games and consoles as some of my all-time faves. "Groove is in the Heart" is probably best known as the dreck heard from the passing Suzuki Samurai (or VW Golf) convertibles of girls with no musical taste. Anyone on here defending that as a "classic" needs their head (or their music collection) examined. According to the iffy evidence presented by Miss Kier, COUNTLESS rockers need to sue the gaming industry. Axl Rose needs to sue over his "rip-off" in Guilty Gear and other games, Alice in Chains and Metallica need to sue over Doom's music (actually, better not let Lawsuit Lars hear about that), as well as all the rock compositions "referenced" by the Mega Man series music. Oh wait, those were successful artists who either took it as a compliment or were too busy making millions to care about what was going on in an obscure game. I think the CA law making people pay for baseless lawsuits is awesome. It makes it more of a risky gamble to sue someone than a no-lose payday.

Toadstool1969
Toadstool1969

$600,000? Ouch!!! That is definitely going to smart.

rbop
rbop

WeeWeeJumbo, if you like Lady Miss Kier so much... why don't you marry her? Haha. Deee-Lite was a one hit wonder group, and since they will never again have a hit, I don't blame her for trying to cash in the easy way. But, I'm glad she wasn't successful.

skemaal
skemaal

Ha, serves her right. Enough with the BS...''oooo this looks like me...you stole my work....it was my idea....cry cry cry''. More power to Sega

digital_soul
digital_soul

why are so many people jumping to Sega's defence? Groove is in the heart was and still is a great tune, Space Channel 5 was and always will be an utterly garbage dancing game!

AlexandLandon
AlexandLandon

Hurray! Maybe now Sega wont be afraid to make another SC5 game! Silly Kier...you are just jealous because Ulala is younger, prettier, and more talented than you.

japanesegoth
japanesegoth

she should have done her homework, and then she would've realized that she didn't have a case. silly strumpet

WeeWeeJumbo
WeeWeeJumbo

Oh my god, I never dreamed that Lady Miss Kier would lose this. It was so obviously a rip-off of her likeness and stage persona, right down to the "Ooh, la la, la-LA-la-la-la-la." I remember Groove Is In the Heart--I loved that song, and I loved the album, World Clique, from which it was taken, even more. This time the courts ruled in favor of the video game manufacturer defendant but they ruled wrong. This is NOT another Jack Thompson story. This was a travesty. Edit--and you guys who are clamoring that she didn't do her homework are missing the point. Groove Is in the Heart was released before 1993. Even if SEGA had created the Ulala character as early as 1999 in Japan, it was still years after Groove Is in the Heart had been released, which was before 1993, and with substantial club-scene success. Everybody knew that song in the early 90s and anybody who saw the Ulala character and had been around in the preceeding ten years would certainly recognize SC5's Ulala as a blatant imitation of the genuine article.

ptown58
ptown58

I've never seen "Space Channel 5" before now , I just went to a site that has pictures from the game and a community message board. Sega ripped "Dee-Lite" (Kier) off big time, I guess chock one up for Big buisness. Can I hear a "Go..Big..Buisness" , I didnt know that Big Buisness had cheerleaders.

345669
345669

Ha!! No Easy way of making Money these days?

Maquis_UK
Maquis_UK

one hit wonder trying to claw some cash in.. sorry it didnt work out for you, luv. next time maybe try to sue m$, they usually lose their numerous lawsuits.

ketsuatama
ketsuatama

Ulala always looked like a generic Japanese anime gal and I don't think Ms kirby (who?) had that much of an impact on Japanese manga artists; or maybe I'm wrong given most of them are weirdos under strange influences and muses!

synapticflow
synapticflow

I'm posting this before reading to see if everyone bashes her for being a has been. She was hot though. I can't believe this lawsuit was still going on. Of course she'll be coming out with an album now. Just you watch. Gotta pay those legal fees.

e1viento
e1viento

digital_soul Groove is in the heart is still a classic and they did another really good track too that i cant recall. Plus Lady Kier was hawt back in the day! ============================== even today.. she's a M.I.L.F. xD

digital_soul
digital_soul

Groove is in the heart is still a classic and they did another really good track too that i cant recall. Plus Lady Kier was hawt back in the day!