7 July 2021CopyrightMuireann Bolger

Chris Brown hit with $1.5m infringement suit over chart-topping song

Musician Chris Brown has been hit with a lawsuit alleging that he infringed the copyright of UK based record label, Greensleeves Publishing, in his 2017 chart topper, “Privacy”.

The record label filed the complaint at US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Friday, July 2.

The suit also named Sony Music, which produces Brown’s music, as a defendant and accused both Brown and the US music label of infringing the copyright for the 1997 reggae song “Tight Up Skirt”.

This infringement occurred both in the song and its accompanying video, stated the complaint.

According to Greensleeves, the song “Privacy” ripped off the core musical feature of “Tight Up Skirt” by featuring a melody containing the same lyrics as the earlier song.

It contends that the melody begins each chorus section in both songs and this shared structural placement is significant and “adds to the prominence of the shared melody in both songs”.

Greensleeves further complains that the allegedly infringing lyric is the “hook” of the earlier reggae song because it dominates the chorus section and occurs a total of 18 times, and that the same lyric recurs without variation in Brown’s hit song, once at the beginning of the  three chorus sections.

The rhythms of the lyrics are identical in both songs with corresponding identical or similar lyrics in the following sequence in both songs, said the UK record label.

Greensleeves added that in the allegedly infringing work, both the vocal timbre and language dialect change when the disputed phrase is performed, invoking a distinctive Jamaican pronunciation, inflection and cadence.

“This new timbre and dialect is substantially similar to the timbre and dialect of ‘Tight Up Skirt’ and deviates substantially from the surrounding material of the infringing work,” stated the complaint.

Greensleeves has asked the court to award damages in addition to the profits earned by Brown and Sony, which it stated was in excess of $1.5 million.

This isn’t the first time Brown has become embroiled in a dispute over copyright. In May 2019, artists including German photographer Marius Sperlich accused him of copying their artworks in a music video released for his song “Wobble Up”.

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