25 September 2017Copyright

Beyoncé denies infringement in $20m ‘Formation’ copyright claim

Pop star Beyoncé has denied copyright infringement in the latest response to a lawsuit filed by the estate of Anthony Barré, a deceased New Orleans rapper also known as Messy Mya.

In February, the estate sued Beyoncé at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, claiming that the singer had used statements made by Barré in her song and video “Formation”.

The estate is requesting damages, including profits—which, it believes, exceed $20 million.

Barré’s YouTube videos featured the phrases “what happened at the New Orleans” and “oh yeah baby. I like that”.

According to the claim, Beyoncé’s “Formation” video and song begin with the voice of Barré saying “what happened at the New Orleans” and “bitch I’m back, by popular demand”. They also include Barré saying “oh yeah baby”.

Released in 2016, “Formation” forms part of Beyoncé’s latest album “Lemonade”.

In April, Beyoncé sought to dismiss the copyright claim on the grounds of fair use and that the estate had “grossly overstated” the defendants’ use of Barré’s YouTube videos.

The motion to dismiss added: “In reality, the snippets from the YouTube videos were used only in the music video and, to a lesser extent, during the live performances.”

Another defendant had licensed the videos from Barré’s family before his sister Angel Barré had appointed herself as the administrator of the estate, the motion claimed.

“Even in the absence of a licence, however, the use of ten or fewer seconds of audio from the YouTube videos is protected by the fair use doctrine,” it said.

However, District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown denied the motion to dismiss.

On Thursday, September 21, Beyoncé filed her latest response to the suit, denying all infringement and raising 25 defences.

Beyoncé claimed that she had a licence, that the use was fair or de minimis, and raised the defences of unclean hands, laches and that the estate had failed to state a cause of action, among others.

The filing asked that the estate’s requests for declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, costs of suit and attorneys’ fees all be denied in full.

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