Beyoncé has issued a scathing response after being hit by a $20-million copyright infringement lawsuit lodged by the estate of a New Orleans rapper whose voice is featured in in the video for Beyoncé’s Lemonade single Formation.
As Rolling Stone reports, back in February the estate of Anthony Barre — better known as rapper, comedian and YouTube sensation Messy Mya — filed a lawsuit alleging that Beyoncé’s use of Barre’s voice in the song was unauthorized, and thus constitutes copyright infringement.
Barre’s voice appears three times in the Formation video, and can be heard saying, “What Happened at the New Orleans,” “B**ch, I’m back by popular demand” and “Oh yeah, baby, I like that.”
According to the suit filed by Barre’s estate (Barre was shot to death in 2010), the samples used in Formation are taken from two of Barre’s YouTube videos, “A 27-Piece Huh?” and “Booking the Hoes From the New Wildin”.
Beyonce’s lawyers initially responded in April, filing a motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds of fair use. The judge, however, denied that motion in July, ruling that even though the samples were short (about six seconds in total) they were “qualitatively significant.”
However, Beyoncé’s lawyers have issued a new defence, filed in a Louisiana court on Thursday, asserting that Beyoncé and her associates had been “granted a license permitting” Barre’s work to be used, and arguing that the inclusion of Barre’s work in Formation constitutes “fair use and/or nominative fair use” that is “reasonable and justified.”
In addition, Beyoncé’s response to the lawsuit also invokes the First Amendment, claiming that the plaintiffs “have abandoned any alleged copyright or trademark in which they claim an interest,” alleging that Barre’s Messy Mya videos “were invalid or were invalidly registered.”