Beyoncé Knowles is being sued for using an internet star’s work without permission

Beyoncé who’s hit songs include ‘Halo’, ‘Crazy In love’ and ‘If I were a boy’ released a hit song called ‘Formation’ in 2016 which allegedly included a sample of work by an internet star called Anthony Barré in both her song and video. It is assumed that Beyoncé was not given permission to use the star’s work.

Anthony Barré who goes by the name ‘Messy Mya’ was murdered in 2010 at the age of 22yrs old so it is his estate that has bought the federal lawsuit against Beyoncé.

Messy Mya who was a YouTube sensation with hundreds of thousands of views can be heard at the beginning of the track saying “What happened at the New Wil’ins? B—-, I’m back by popular demand.” Which is a reference from one of his earlier YouTube videos. He is later heard on ‘Formation’ saying, “Oh yeah, baby, oh yeah I, ohhhhh, oh, yes, I like that,” which, again is from another previous video of his.

The estate of Anthony Barre is suing Beyoncé for Copyright infringement and have released a statement (according to MTV) saying ‘Barré was a well-known performance comedian, music artist, and MC in New Orleans. He is very closely associated with the bounce music phenomenon in New Orleans. There are more than a hundred videos documenting his performance, statements, comedic routines, etc. This means they are seeking $20 million in royalties from sales of “Formation” and other damages.

Watch this space for the development of this case.

Written by Mark Reed

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50 Cent is suing his former lawyers, but not the same former lawyers as last time

In the lawsuit, where up to $32 million in damages is claimed, 50 Cent alleges that his former lawyer Peter Raymond poorly advised him.

This isn’t the first time that 50 cent has sued his former lawyers, although this time newer former lawyers are being sued are not the same as last time. Last time he alleged that the lawyers had made “numerous failures” in the dispute that revolved around 50 Cent attempting to break into the headphone market. That dispute was settled out of court, the rapper simply stated that “The law firm and I have settled or dispute and I consider the issue closed”.

The most recent alleged poor advice came about as a result of the legal dispute with Lastonia Leviston. Mrs Leviston sued 50 Cent, real name Curtis Jackson, after he posted online a sextape in which Mrs Leviston appeared.

Peter Raymond, during this dispute is alleged to have advised 50 Cent to declare himself bankrupt in order to put the lawsuit on pause. 50 Cent subsequently declared himself bankrupt, but the court did not have the same feelings as to putting the litigation on pause. The litigation resulted in the court ordering 50 Cent to pay more than his name would suggest; $7 million was the total damages that was awarded to Mrs Leviston.

The new round of litigation alleges that “Reed Smith and Raymond did not follow established legal standards in representing Jackson in the Leviston case by failing to provide effective representation and conduct proper pre-trial and trial preparation prior to the Leviston trial”.

Round two for 50 Cent in the court room against his former lawyers, one would hope that the lawyers representing him this time don’t end up like his former lawyers.

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Music Copyright Basics

Copyright it a type of intellectual property right that subsists in different types of works. Music involves copyright in many ways, for example, a song may have copyright existing in the actual sound recording, the same song will have copyright in the lyrics and the arrangement of the notes of the music will also be subject to copyright.
It should be noted that copyright can only subsist in works that are original and have been recorded; this may be electronically for the sound recording, however, the lyrics and musical notes may also be electronically recorded or even scribbled down on paper.
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that a “literary work” is any work, other than a dramatic or musical work, which is written, spoken or sung. Furthermore, a “musical work” is a work consisting of music, exclusive of any words or action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music.
In the case of Sawkins v Hyperion Records 2005, the Court of Appeal was asked what constitutes “music”. It was held that effort, time and skill that was spent when making a performing edition of a work that was out of copyright was enough to qualify as an original musical work. Therefore, the new performing edition of the out of copyright work was entitled to copyright for the purposes of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988. This was notwithstanding the fact that Sawkins worked on the existing work that had been composed by another person, that was out of copyright and no new music was to be added.
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that a “sound recording” is, believe it or not, a recording of sounds. Thankfully, the 1988 Act does provide a more detailed definition: “a recording of the whole or any part of a literary, dramatic or musical work, from which sounds reproducing the work or part may be recorded”. Therefore, a sound recording of a song will have a separate copyright aside from the actual music of the song. It must be noted that a sound recording, of a sound recording does not create a new copyright.
Furthermore, if the sound recording is incorporated into a music video, this will create a new copyright; the sound track will be treated as part of the film and as such will benefit from the films copyright.
Copyright can be infringed in a number of ways; most obviously copying a copyrighted work will amount to infringement. Other forms of infringement exist such as making the work available to the public or communicating the work. However, if the copyright holder has granted permission or a licence (usually for a fee) then these acts will not amount to infringement.
Therefore, one song can create multiple copyrights. It is these copyrights that when licensed can make money whilst protecting your work. If you would like any advice please give us a call or send us a message.
(Please bear in mind that we are only offering advice in relation to music law, unfortunately Lawdit Music does not play any instruments).

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Undue influence

Im often asked about contracts that bands or songwriters sign which they consider to be unfair. The law with regard to the validity of agreements in restraint of trade was fully considered by this House in Esso Petroleum Co. Ltd. v. Harper’s Garage (Stourport) Ltd. [1968] A.C. 269

Here it was held that the terms of the agreement were so restrictive that either they cannot be justified or they must be justified by the party seeking to enforce the agreement? If there is room for justification then this party would have to prove it was justified normally by showing that the restrictions were no more than what was reasonably required to protect his legitimate interests.

A crucial but unreported case was “Armatrading v. Stone and Another ([ 1985] unreported)” Her manager acted for both artist and recording company.  The court set aside the contract as they were ‘ unduly onerous and unconscionable’

Make sure you seek independent legal advice!


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Macca looks to but all Beatle’s tracks

The great Paul McCartney has begun the process of regaining control of his share of the US publishing rights in the Beatles’ catalogue. The publishing is currently owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, but US law allows living artists to apply to take back the right 56 years after initial publication, meaning the Lennon-McCartney catalogue becomes available in 2018.

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PRS signs deal with Spotify

The deal is for two years

Ben McEwen, PRS for Music’s Head of Online said: “We are excited to continue working with Spotify, a relationship that allows millions of users across the globe to enjoy our members’ repertoire. The prodigious growth of Spotify is helping to shape a strong future for dynamic, legitimate streaming services, and we support this thriving online market that recognises and remunerates the works of the creator.”

James Duffett-Smith, Spotify’s Global Head of Publisher Relations, said: “We are very happy to be able to announce the continuation of our successful relationship with PRS for Music. We very much appreciate the ongoing support of PRS for Music and the fantastic publishers and songwriters they represent, and look forward to continuing to build a sustainable future for the creators at the heart of the music industry.

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Details of Sony Music’s contract with Spotify leaked online

A 2011 contract between Sony Music and Spotify has been leaked online and published by technology website The Verge. The contract, which has since been removed from the Verge’s website, gives insight on the approach of major labels to digital streaming services and the freemium model, favoured by consumers but disliked by rights holders. To summarise the contract as succinctly as possible, Sony Music was in a stronger bargaining position when the terms were being thrashed out and the leaked document reflects this.

The Spotify model was praised in 2011 for being innovative and for encouraging changes in the way consumers purchased music. Sony, however, were clearly more cautious in dealing with an untested business model and this is reflected in the inclusion of minimum guarantees and upfront advance payments from Spotify. The intention was clear; Sony wanted to profit from this venture and successfully negotiated upfront advances against which future income would be deducted. The minimum guarantee clauses also acted to ensure Spotify would continue to do all it could to ensure the longevity of the service, thereby continuing to make the venture financially viable for Sony. Sony further negotiated growth targets to ensure Spotify continued to grow, requiring Spotify to pay $0.00225 per minimum stream, rising to $0.0025 per stream if growth targets were missed.

The upfront advance payments comprised $9 million payable to Sony for the first year of the contract, $16 million payable in the second year, each of which were payable in quarterly instalments. The parties also included a $17.5 million advance in the event of Sony exercising its option to extend the deal for a further year. Spotify would recoup these advances by offsetting income due to Sony against the advances agreed at the outset. However, in the event that Spotify’s income was less than the advances paid to Sony, then Sony was entitled to keep the difference for itself. Such practices are criticised by artists, whose music forms the basis of these contracts but who do not receive a share from any retained advance payments.

Spotify further agreed to provide Sony with free advertising on its freemium offering, which Sony could then assign to third parties, thereby profiting and depriving Spotify of the income it could have received if it had retained the right to sell the advertising directly.

The points above show that Sony clearly had stronger bargaining power when entering into negotiations. Spotify knew that it would be difficult to attract mainstream consumers without Sony’s catalogue being part of its digital offering, thereby forcing it to concede to Sony’s contract demands. Sony would undoubtedly seek to justify its practices on the basis that it is a business and is entitled to push for protective clauses when negotiating a contract for an untested business model. One thing is clear, however; the commercial interests of artists were clearly not a key factor in negotiations.

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Band Agreements

A topic brought up at this year’s Great Escape Festival in Brighton surrounded the use of ‘band agreements’. Many bands and acts begin with the best intentions but the majority will at some point fall out over legal or monetary rights to the works created.

A plethora of examples of standard band agreements can be found following a simple Google search but why is it necessary?

As with any business venture and partnership agreement will have been drawn up between partners, a band is no different particularly if the band split is not amicable.

A music industry example from recent years that may have benefitted from an agreement was; American band, Paramore. Formed in 2004, the female fronted rock group pulled in the attention of record labels as the singer, Hayley Williams and the band’s manager began talking through deals with Atlantic Records. Before the rest of the band had realised, this group had just been signed as a solo artist. After many years of going along with the momentum, founding members Josh Farrow and brother Zac left the band in late 2010. This may have had a different result if an agreement between the band had been in place from the start.

The usual points to be included within a band agreement can generally be broken down into individual percentages based on the input and creative input involved;

  • Copyright rights – this includes both the musical and literary copyright concerning the instrumentation and the lyrics, the phonographic copyright regarding the ownership of the recordings and finally the copyright in any original artwork used.
  • Income rights – including the obvious question of who gets …% of the music income, merchandise income or synch / sponsorship. Also to be thought about is what happens to these percentages should a band member leave or even if the entire band splits.
  • Finally the band name – if a successful brand has been created who is entitled to use the name if the band members go separate ways?

Other considerations include;

  • The spending of band income on merch, equipment etc.
  • Equal share rights? Does every member have the same voting power in a decision or does someone have a casting vote?



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What copyright is there in my music?

The backbone of the music industry relies on legislation recognised internationally under the Berne Convention 1886. This states that copyright for creative works do not need to be declared or registered, as they would be automatically in force. In the UK the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) gives the creator the right to control the ways their work is used.

Different types of copyright;

Music and Literary copyright (usually assigned to the music publisher by the writer), this covers all lyrics and musical works written in a song. The term of this copyright is currently set for the life of the writer and an additional 70 years. The rights to any income derived from the works after the death of the writer should be detailed in a will. A record label must pay a license to the writer / publisher for the right to use and make copies of this song known as a Mechanical License and collected by the MCPS.

In the UK, non-profit organisation, PRS for Music (Performing Rights Society) collect broadcasting royalties on behalf of its members. PRS charges venues, broadcasting companies such as radio and TV stations and any other outlet that plays music the public an annual blanket licence in order to generate this revenue. This is then paid directly to the writer and publisher respectively.

Phonographic copyright (usually owned by the record label / person(s) that paid for the recording) is the copyright relating to the performers in the recording. As of November 2013 the term was extended from 50 to 70 years meaning that the copyright could continue to be exploited and royalties collected for 70 years from the date published.

As with the music and literary copyright, the playing of phonographic copyrighted material requires a license to play to the public or broadcast and this fee is collected and distributed to it’s members by the PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited).

If you are writing music, playing live or getting any broadcast play (including radio), it would be beneficial to get signed up to both PPL and PRS (links can be found below).



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BMG acquires US rock label Rise Records

Music company BMG has acquired US indie rock label Rise Records in a multi-million dollar deal. Rise Records is home to critically acclaimed artists including Memphis May Fire, Of Mice & Men, and The Devil Wears Prada. The transaction marks the fourth such acquisition in the past year for BMG, following its purchases of US Vagrant Records, UK Infectious Records and Union Square Music, helping it to become the fifth largest record company in the UK.

Rise Records was established by Craig Ericson in 1991, who will continue to operate Rise Records from the United States, with BMG handling all other aspects of the business and providing Rise’s artists with access to a wider international market. Rise has embraced the changing nature of the music industry, boasting a popular online presence. President of Creative & Marketing at BMG Chrysalis US described Rise as a “cultural phenomenon” and praised the community it established in light of its focus on digital media.

BMG represents the rights to approximately 2.5 million songs and recordings and has been quick to acquire catalogues of music labels, including Chrysalis and Virgin. BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch believes BMG stands to gain from future acquisitions, stating that the company expects to make “two or three” further acquisitions before the summer and commenting that every acquisition made by the company to date has substantially outperformed its expectations.

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