Music Publisher Discovers A Song In Its Catalog Has Been Heavily Sampled For Decades... Sues Everyone

from the statute-of-limitations? dept

Over at THREsq, they have the story of a small music publisher by the name of Drive-In Music. Apparently it holds the rights to the song "Let A Woman Be A Woman" by Dyke & The Blazers:
A UK-based band called The Heavy apparently used the music in that song as the basis for its song "How You Like Me Now?"
The music seems pretty clearly to come from the earlier song. Of course, Drive-In only noticed all of this after Hyundai used this song in a commercial it ran during last year's Superbowl:
Rather than just suing those behind the Heavy's song, Drive In has basically gone on a legal rampage. It sued pretty much everyone even loosely connected with the song. So, it sued the label... but also the ad agency that put together the ad, the NFL for having the commercial during the Super Bowl and CBS for airing the ad. Apparently that lawsuit was settled, which is too bad, as it seems like many of those parties could push back on the claims.

Since then, however, Drive-In has suddenly discovered that the song has been sampled in a bunch of other songs, and has decided to sue over all of them. THREsq has a list:
  • In July, Drive-in Music sued Sony BMG, Ruthless Records, and others for use of "Let a Woman Be a Woman" in the seminal gangster rap hit, "Menace to Society" by the group, Above the Law
  • In August, Drive-in Music sued Capitol Records for use of "Let a Woman Be a Woman" in the 1990 rap song, "Diss You" from rapper, King Tee
  • In September, Drive-in Music sued Busta Rhymes, Warner Music, Elektra Entertainment, Atlantic Recording Company and others for use of "Let a Woman Be a Woman" in 1991 old-school hip hop song, "Case of the P.T.A."
  • In September, Drive-in Music sued Universal Music Group, Interscope-Geffen-A&M Group, and Beck Hansen for use of "Let a Woman Be a Woman" in the 1997 Beck song "Jack-Ass" from the Odelay album
  • In fact, just this week, Drive-in Music has filed a second lawsuit over that very same Beck song. The company is going after the publisher, Cyandide Breathmint Music, the Dust Brothers, and various subsidiaries of UMG.
Of course, if I remember correctly (and you copyright lawyers out there, feel free to chime in), the statute of limitations on copyright is three years. I believe that this doesn't prevent Drive-In from suing over those older songs, but it would limit any damages to what's happened with those songs in the past three years (meaning: likely not very much).


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    rome (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    I first heard it from Stetsasonic. It may have been cleared but somehow I doubt it. Too bad because they made something new from it.

    http://www.whosampled.com/sample/view/30584/Stetsasonic-Sally_Dyke%20%26%20the%20Blazers-Let% 20a%20Woman%20Be%20a%20Woman%20-%20Let%20a%20Man%20Be%20a%20Man/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Jake, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

    So that's what that sample's from!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    cc (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:11pm

    Song released in 1969, in case anyone was wondering.

    Can anyone find any info on "Drive-In Music"? It seems non-existent, except for this lawsuit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    I am no expert in this genre

    But sounds like a lot of the music from that time.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_moB85G7xI
    James Brown anyone?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otF5XwyVy2M

    Just for fun:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-B3bWwK_Bk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ny5ajCn0xw
    Have a great weekend all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Zangetsu (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:15pm

    Is there a limit to the number of songs mankind can write?

    Has anyone done a study to determine how many different bars of music you can actually create? Sure you can put those bars of music together in different manners, but at the base you still have x notes being played. Don't we, mankind, run out of music at some point? Are we at that point? If you want to make a record sound like 50's music, don't you have to "plagarize"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Jon Snow (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Is there a limit to the number of songs mankind can write?

    Yes, there is a limit. This guy has copyright on all of them:

    http://blog.sitedaniel.com/2010/05/kookaburra/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    PW (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    Missed opportunity

    While I like The Heavy's version of the song, in reading your post and being exposed to the original song, I started looking to purchase it. I actually like the original better. Of course, it's not available as an MP3 download only as part of CD compilation. If these folks had been reading your posts, they'd know that simply making people aware that The Heavy's song had been sampled from this Dyke & The Blazers' version, they would have probably been able to ride the coattails of The Heavy's success. It would have driven new interest in this great song. Sad that the only creative solution they could think of is litigation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Jon Snow (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: Is there a limit to the number of songs mankind can write?

    Another guy doing a similar thing about 10 years ago:

    http://slashdot.org/story/01/10/04/0142222/Copyright-Claimed-on-Telephone-Tones

    He's still online offering to sell you a license to the melody you make by dialing your own phone number...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Eugene (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 5:36pm

    Re:

    That's fine, since one of the people they're suing is Capitol Records, who are also non-existent except for this lawsuit. HEY-O!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Eugene (profile), Feb 4th, 2011 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Missed opportunity

    It's true that, in taking the long view, litigation is counterproductive. But keep in mind that a lot of businessmen who sue for copyright infringement do so on principle. Having a good or bad strategy is not as important as being "right", and having a judge say so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Neil, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 8:53pm

    So... is the main objection folks here have is that a third party who bought the copyright is trying to make an opportunist buck? What if the case had been filed in a timely manner by a destitute songwriter watching his song make someone else rich? Just curious at what point people here think a copyright case would actually be justified. (I'll also accept article/book suggestions)

    I would argue that Zangetsu and PW's arguments sound a little na´ve... Z: Haven't we also said all the words in the English language in one order or another thus making any copyright on a book useless? PW: do you really think that politely raising his hand will get the original creator his piece of the pie?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2011 @ 11:22pm

    Now ICE has to seize all the assets from those criminal samplers.

    That is how the law works right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Jon Silva, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 1:31am

    sample vs. cover version

    As far as I can see, The Heavy did not sample the original but replay the tune which renders it a cover version. I can only speak for Germany (but assume copyright law is pretty similar in the UK): 10 years after release of the original, you do not even have to ask the original author(s) if you want to re-record a tune in order to come up with your own interpretation (i.e. cover version).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 4:59am

    Re:

    To be honest any musician that sues today is bad in my book I don't care what their financial situation is.

    That musician should be asking how are they making money and I'm not if we are doing the same thing?

    He should start doing what others are doing, then he may discover that a) Other are not making that much more b) He was doing it wrong and that is why he wasn't making money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Joey Bags, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    Was the publisher ever contacted to clear the samples for any of those tracks? Were they even available for contact or did they abandon and neglect their intellectual property? It's hard to believe that not one the labels involved attempted clear the sample.

    If this is true then it's a real bitch ass move by the publisher to pull this after the fact. And pretty dumb not having the Mp3 available for purchase.

    On the other hand, if the publisher was contacted and denied the sample clearance requests then by all means they should sue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Feb 5th, 2011 @ 6:59am

    Re:

    They are a really small label in southern california with about 20-30 total employees.
    They signed this band in around '66-'67 and they have held the rights (reportedly) to this song since around 1970

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Neil, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 11:11am

    Clearly Anonymous Coward's comment is a ridiculously ill thought out blanket statement, but I'm afraid it reflects a pretty widely held trendy philosophy these days that all copyright litigation, regardless of merit, is 'uncool'.

    Suppose you write an original song, someone covers it, and their version winds up on a superbowl commercial without your consent or credit. Are you somehow at fault for not selling it first? Should you wait until some blogger finds out it's your song, then wait for people to come buy your version -- all while some other unscrupulous person makes off with tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2011 @ 12:44pm

    Of course, if I remember correctly (and you copyright lawyers out there, feel free to chime in), the statute of limitations on copyright is three years. I believe that this doesn't prevent Drive-In from suing over those older songs, but it would limit any damages to what's happened with those songs in the past three years (meaning: likely not very much).

    Not a copyright lawyer, but my understanding is that it depends on what circuit you're in. In some circuits you can collect for the entirety of the infringement, and in others you can only collect for the three years prior to the action being filed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 6th, 2011 @ 6:23am

    They didn't lose any money from me. I never heard of any of them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Feb 6th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    Re:

    Sounds to me like the publishers of ALL James Brown's stuff should start suing Drive-in Music.

    It never ceases to amaze me how people borrow off the styles of others, and then have the nerve to sue people who do the same thing to them.

    CBMHB

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:18am

    Just a thought.....

    If you're going to have copyright laws and conflate it with theft, shouldn't there also be a statute of limitations on copyright "theft"?

    Odelay (as the first example I googled) is about 14 years old. Isn't that past the statute of limitations for REAL theft in most places? And that's where the owner of the object reported it missing.

    If someone "steals" your "work" and you don't even notice for 14 years isn't it just a tad more ludicrous than usual to sue them? OOoooo I've come over all philosophical. If a tree falls in a forest with no-one to hear.... Pah! Child's play!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    DH's Love Child (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    Re: Re:

    It never ceases to amaze me how people borrow off the styles of others, and then have the nerve to sue people who do the same thing to them.


    Ah, but it's only infringement when someone else does it to them. See how that works?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Jed, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:02pm

    Re: Neil

    Neil I find your premise to be faulty.

    "Suppose you write an original song, someone covers it, and their version winds up on a superbowl commercial without your consent or credit."

    If you right an original song and someone covers it, that implies that your song got recorded and you got paid for it. Otherwise how would they know about it to cover it? (yes, I know that it is theoretically possible, but it is extremely unlikely) Also assuming your premise isn't flawed and it did happen it would make more sense to capitalize on the popularity of the song that covered your song. Think about it this way if you publicize that this new song just covers your song a lot of people who like the new song will like your song too. Most people identify as much if not more with the melody/beat of a song than they do with the lyrics. Not suing over the unauthorized cover would also engender good will in the fans of that band/song toward you.

    As to the question in your earlier comment:

    "Just curious at what point people here think a copyright case would actually be justified."

    I think that suing another party for any reason should be considered a last resort and not an initial reaction. When many companies (and individuals) see something they don't like they decide to sue. When instead they should first question do I have any legal standing to sue and second is suing going to give me/us the best overall outcome down the road. In many cases (some of which have been outlined here on Techdirt) even when they win the lawsuit they lose things that are much more valuable (like the respect and good will of there customers). Very few people buy products from companies they hate/don't respect unless they don't have any other options.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Neil, Feb 8th, 2011 @ 8:29pm

    Re: Re: Neil

    "If you [sic] right an original song and someone covers it, that implies that your song got recorded and you got paid for it."

    And *my* premise is flawed? So how does the writer get paid in your example? Anyone can cover a song as long as they pay the writer a mechanical license of $.09 per unit. So let's say the artist covering the song presses 1000 CDs: the writer gets paid $90. The cover version gets sold to a superbowl commercial for tens of thousands of dolllars. The writer legally has to approve of and be cut in on that deal.

    You seem to be living in a fantasy world where writers get compensated with a warm fuzzy feeling when people hear their song. Oh, what's that... someone else made $50,000 dollars it? No problem, I wouldn't want to be perceived as crass for wanting my share. Lucky for me, my landlord accepts respect and good will in lieu of money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Hardik Upadhyay (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:07am

    Limitations lead to frustration

    By suing lot of people will not lead to the solution. They had limitation in accessing the details and finally they started assault on the companies to make high profit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This