Thursday, June 1, 2017

Drake Beats Lawsuit Over Sampling With Winning 'Fair Use' Argument


Drake, along with various associated record labels and music publishers, pulled off an impressive achievement on Tuesday by convincing a judge that his song "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2," off the 2013 albumNothing Was the Same, fairly sampled a 1982 spoken-word recording, "Jimmy Smith Rap," and that there is no liability for copyright infringement.

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What makes Drake's summary judgment victory against the Estate of James Oscar Smith particularly noteworthy is that rulings of copyright "fair use" are rare in the realm of songcraft. When it comes to documentaries and less abstract art forms, judges can parse meaning and figure out whether use of copyrighted material is transformative. But in disputes over song sampling, parties have long tended to wage fights over other issues like ownership records and whether the copying is sufficiently substantial. This "Pound Cake" case had those elements as well, but this one is now ending at the trial court because U.S. District Court judge William H. Pauley III has taken the unusual step of addressing Drake's purpose in sampling.

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According to the facts laid out in Pauley's opinion, Cash Money hired a music license company to obtain all necessary licenses. The defendants obtained a license for the recording of "Jimmy Smith Rap," but clearing the composition became problematic. The Estate maintained it would not have granted a license for the composition because Jimmy Smith, a jazz musician, "wasn't a fan of hip hop."

Indeed, Smith's 1982 recording, which spoke of A&R men and going into the studio, is evidence of such bias.

"Jazz is the only real music that's gonna last," states the lyrics. "All that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow. But jazz was, is and always will be."  cont'd
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This article appeared first in Billboard

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