TAMPA — A judge is being asked to "hold it against" somebody.
Question is: Who?
The songwriters behind the Britney Spears hit Hold It Against Me this week filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to rule that they did not rip off elements of the song from Pasco County's Bellamy Brothers.
The Bellamys had been threatening legal action against Spears and the songwriters because they said her song may too closely resemble their 1979 composition, If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me).
The line originally comes from the mouth of the late comedian Groucho Marx, who David Bellamy has said was his inspiration for the song.
But Hold It Against Me songwriters Lukasz Gottwald, a.k.a. Dr. Luke, Bonnie McKee, Mathieu Jomphelepine and Martin Sandberg filed suit in U.S. District Court in Tampa asking a judge to rule that they did not infringe on the Bellamy Brothers' copyright.
Spears, who performed the song and included it in her album Femme Fatale, was not listed as a plaintiff in the suit.
Gottwald seeks unspecified damages because he said the Bellamys have defamed him on their website, Bellamybrothers.com, with false charges that he had previously violated U.S. copyright law.
The songwriters said in the suit that the Bellamys are engaging in an "extremely visible smear campaign" with their false charges.
"The transparent publicity stunt by the Bellamy Brothers has clearly been undertaken in a desperate attempt to combat fading interest and to spike lagging sales of the Bellamy Brothers' music," the lawsuit said.
Representatives of the two sides could not be reached to comment late Friday.
A Bellamy Brothers representative told the St. Petersburg Times in a Feb. 23 story that the country duo had hired Richard Busch, a copyright law heavyweight.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.