Want to hear about the most quintessential digital age-influencer era legal battle ... ever? Well, here it is. One YouTube star/musician is suing another YouTube star/musician and the creative partner that the two look-alike, dress-alike blondes have in common. In a copyright infringement suit filed this week in federal court in California, Brittany Alexandria Sheets is facing off against Moriah Pereira and Corey Mixter. Or maybe you know these three as: Mars Argo, Poppy and Titanic Sinclair, respectively.
Before we get into the actual allegations of lawsuit, which include claims of copyright infringement, right of publication violations, “severe emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation,” and domestic violence, here’s a little rundown of the parties.
First of all, there is the plaintiff Brittany Alexandria Sheets (aka Mars Argo), who is a blonde YouTube star and singer known for her indie pop/electronic rock music and viral YouTube videos, all of which she created with ex-boyfriend Corey Mixter (aka Titanic Sinclair) until 2014, after they split romantically and then creatively. After that, Mixter went on to work with Moriah Pereira (aka Poppy), a different soon-to-be blonde indie/rock musician and YouTube star.
According to Sheets’ complaint, she was prompted to file a 42-page lawsuit this week against Mixter and Pereira after years of abuse from Mixter and an onslaught of copying by both Mixter and Pereira, in which they allegedly "appropriated her entire persona" – from her music and her videos to her actual appearance and mannerisms.
Things began to go south for Sheets near the height of her music/YouTube fame, which included the YouTube show, “Computer Show." Despite her budding success, Sheets alleges that she “was living a nightmare," and that “behind closed doors, she was enduring severe emotional and psychological abuse and manipulation from Mr. Mixter.”
Sheets cut ties with Mixter romantically in 2014, but says she continued to work with him even though he had begun “to repeatedly harass, stalk, threaten, and abuse [her], including – but not limited to – threatening to commit suicide, repeatedly showing up unannounced at [her] doorstep, breaking into her apartment, stalking her every move on social media, disparaging her to mutual friends, acquaintances, or others in the industry, and even physically assaulting her.”
While she was initially “hesitant to end their professional association because she had worked so hard to build Mars Argo, and the project was gaining notoriety,” Sheets asserts that she stopped producing new content with Mixter in mid-2014, and cut ties with him altogether in late 2015, leaving Los Angeles in order “to protect herself from Mr. Mixter’s threats and harassment.”
Meanwhile, Sheets alleges that Mixter had started to "calculatedly transform another woman, Moriah Rose Pereira – known by the stage name ‘Poppy’– into a Mars Argo knockoff.”
Specifically, Sheets asserts in her complaint that “although [Ms. Pereira] was a natural brunette, after meeting Mr. Mixter, [she] dyed her hair a specific platinum blonde and, in character as Poppy, started to alter her voice to be a pitch higher to mimic Mars Argo’s distinctive speaking voice.” Together Pereira and Mixter “began to produce short segments on a YouTube channel that were set against substantially similar backdrops and in a deliberately similar format to the Mars Argo project.”
Still yet, from November 2014 to present, “through the Poppy project, Mr. Mixter and Ms. Pereira deliberately copied Mars Argo’s identity, likeness, expression of ideas, sound, style, and aesthetic in YouTube segments, music videos, live performances, internet videos, and other performances or shows,” says Sheets. In some instances, Sheets says that Pereira was actually wearing Sheets’ own clothing.
“By combining that infringement with a sinister campaign of harassment, Mr. Mixter attempted to drive Ms. Sheets out of the entertainment business – not only stealing her intellectual property but appropriating her entire persona,” Sheets further alleges.
In connection with such claims, Sheet has set forth claims of Copyright Infringement, Common Law Right of Publicity, Violation of California’s Unfair Business Laws, and Domestic Violence under California state law.
Note: Copyright law protects original music, song lyrics, photography, and choreography, among other things. Right of publicity laws, which are particularly strong in the state of California (due to the large number of famous figures that live there), provide protection for a person’s name, portrait, picture, likeness and even the sound of their voice when used for commercial purposes without that person’s consent.
The complaint states that Sheets is "seeking damages from Mr. Mixter both for his personal abuse of [her], and from Mr. Mixter and from his company in copying Mars Argo’s identity, likeness, and expression of ideas as part of his work with the artist Poppy, and for the blatant and willful infringement of Mars Argo’s copyright."
* The case is Brittany Alexandria Sheets v. Corey Michael Mixter et al, 2:18-cv-03204 (C.D.Cal).