Sunday, June 16, 2024

Beyoncé sued for alleged copyright infringement over sample on ‘Break My Soul’

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Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Sony Music Entertainment and others are named as defendants in a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement over Beyonce’s 2022 hit Break My Soul.

A group of former musicians in New Orleans, who once performed as Da Showstoppaz, say Break My Soul infringed on the copyright of Release A Wiggle, a track they recorded and released independently in 2002.

Break My Soul includes a sample from Explode, a 2014 track by Big Freedia, a prominent artist in bounce music, a New Orleans-born subgenre of dance music.

In a complaint filed on Wednesday with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the four members of Da Showstoppaz allege that Big Freedia’s Explode copied the lyrical hook of their 2002 track, and that this hook also appeared on Break My Soul – and asserted that therefore both songs infringed on Da Showstoppaz’ copyright.

“Da Showstoppaz’s contribution to the New Orleans bounce music scene and usage of the actual words, melody, and musical arrangement of the Release A Wiggle were deliberately taken by Big Freedia in the recording of Explode, which was subsequently heavily sampled by Mrs. Carter [Beyonce] in the master recording of Break My Soul,” states the complaint, which can be read in full here.

The crux of the case centers on the lyrics “release a wiggle” and/or “release ya wiggle,” which the complaint says appear on Big Freedia’s Explode and, by way of sampling, on Break My Soul.

“Prior to the writing and recording of Da Showstoppaz’ Release A Wiggle the phrases, “release a wiggle,” and “release ya wiggle” had never been recorded or published in any other song,” the complaint states.

Break My Soul, released in June 2022, was the first single off of Beyonce’s seventh studio album, Renaissance. The song reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, making it the first Beyonce song to achieve that milestone since Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) in 2008. Various videos of the song have some 72 million views on YouTube, and nearly 440 million streams on Spotify.

The four members of Da Showstoppaz – Tessa Avie, Keva Bourgeois, Henri Braggs and Brian Clark – are seeking damages and royalties from sales of Break My Soul and Renaissance, as well as damages and compensation from the song’s use in Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour and the concert film Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce.

Notably, the complaint says that Da Showstoppaz didn’t take out a recording and publishing copyrights in Release A Wiggle until 2023, a year after the release of Break My Soul and nine years after the release of Big Freedia’s Explode.

The plaintiffs say they recorded the track in 2002 for a mixtape produced by Black House Entertainment, a startup label founded by Norris Revader, aka Big Steppa, and “no paperwork or contracts were ever signed or exchanged.”

They say the track became a hit in New Orleans nightclubs, and the mixtape on which it appeared “was disseminated from the trunks of cars by block party DJs and at nightclubs, or handed out to well-known disc-jockeys who played the music at bounce music venues during that time period.”

The complaint says Bourgeois posted Release A Wiggle on YouTube in March 2014, three months before the release of Explode. However, the complaint alleges a more direct link between Release A Wiggle and Big Freedia’s track.

“Big Freedia was once affiliated with both Mr. Revader and Peacachoo [a producer on the 2002 mixtape] through the BlackHouse ventures and music label, as they produced several songs,” the complaint alleges.

“Given Big Freedia’s roots in New Orleans and ties to its bounce scene, and Big Freedia’s association with BlackHouse, any reasonable person could infer that Big Freedia had access to Da Showstoppaz’ Release A Wiggle.”

“The coined term and phrase ‘release a/yo wiggle’ has now become closely synonymous with Big Freedia, thereby contributing to Big Freedia’s fame. However, Big Freedia did not compose or write the phrase, and Big Freedia never credited Da Showstoppaz as the source.”

Da Showstoppaz, in a legal complaint against Beyonce et al.

The four plaintiffs say they weren’t aware of Big Freedia’s Explode because, by 2014, they had “disengaged” from the music business, and due to being forced to move out of the New Orleans area by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they had lost touch with the city’s bounce music scene.

They only became aware of the alleged infringement in 2022, when they first heard Break My Soul and a member of Da Showstoppaz, “in shock… posted on a popular social media account “theshaderoom” @bigfreedia and @beyonce notifying them of the unauthorized use of Release A Wiggle lyrics.”

“The coined term and phrase ‘release a/yo wiggle’ has now become closely synonymous with Big Freedia, thereby contributing to Big Freedia’s fame. However, Big Freedia did not compose or write the phrase, and Big Freedia never credited Da Showstoppaz as the source,” the complaint alleges.

“To date, defendants have not entered into a license agreement with plaintiffs.”

As defendants, the lawsuit names Beyonce Knowles Carter; Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, who is credited as a co-writer and co-producer on Break My Soul; Sony Music Entertainment, the parent company of Columbia Records, which released Break My Soul, and Beyonce’s label Parkwood Entertainment, which produced Renaissance and Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce.

Two other co-producers and co-writers on Break My SoulChristopher Alan Stewart, aka Tricky Stewart, and Nash Terius Youngdell, aka The Dream – are also named.

The lawsuit also targets Big Freedia and Adam J. Pigott, aka BlaqNmilD, as co-writers and producers on Explode, as well as publishing companies associated with that track, including Kobalt Music Publishing and Musical Geniuses Records LLC.

The publishers behind Break My SoulWarner-Tamerlane Publishing, WC Music Corporation, Spirit Music Publishing and Oakland 13 Music – are also named, as is Amplify Inc., the movie distributor on Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce.

Beyonce has faced lawsuits over her use of New Orleans bounce music before.

In 2017, she was sued over the use of spoken-word vocals by bounce rapper Messy Mya on her videos for Formation and Lemonade. That suit was settled out of court in 2018.

In 2020, she and husband Jay-Z were hit with a lawsuit over Black Effect, a track on their 2018 joint album Everything is Love. In that case, Jamaican choreographer Lenora Antoinette Stines alleged that she hadn’t been properly credited for the use of her vocals on Black Effect. Stiles dropped the lawsuit later that year.Music Business Worldwide

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