Not The First Rodeo: Lil Nas X And Cardi B Hit With Blurred Lines Style Copyright Complaint Over Rodeo

from the no-more-inspiration dept

We’ve talked quite a bit lately about how the Blurred Lines decision, saying that having a similar “feel” in a song can be copyright infringement even if it’s not a direct copy, has truly messed up the recording industry. Artists are afraid to even mention inspirations for fear of it leading to a lawsuit. New lawsuits are freaking out musicians and even have the RIAA complaining that maybe copyright protection has gone too far.

It appears we’ve got another such lawsuit, this time against Lil Nas X, who had the undisputed “song of the summer” with “Old Town Road.” Lil Nas X released his 7 EP earlier this summer, which included a couple versions of “Old Town Road,” but also a collaboration with Cardi B called “Rodeo.”

And now they (and everyone else) have been sued over the song claiming that it infringes on a beat called “gwenXdonelee4-142” (catchy name that) that was incorporated into a song you probably haven’t heard of: “Broad Day” by PuretoReefa and Sakrite Duexe.

Now, what’s important here is that complaint does not claim that Rodeo sampled Broad Day or even that it directly copied the original beat. It literally notes that they just have a “substantially similar” sound.

The similarities between the works at issue include but are not limited to the following: the two works at issue employ a number of substantially similar elements and material which constitute a constellation of elements creating a substantially similar overall sound and feel, as set forth in the below, non-inclusive musical analysis…

It then notes a variety of similarities, including that the chord progression is the same (which, uh, so what?) and that they’re both at 142 beats per minute. And then there are things like:

Plaintiffs? Work utilizes guitar and wind instruments to evoke a certain aesthetic that is set against hip-hop elements derived from digital drum and bass elements….

Rodeo also utilizes guitar and wind instruments to evoke a certain aesthetic that is set against hip-hop elements derived from digital drum and bass elements.


At regular intervals in Plaintiffs? Work, the rhythmic guitar part outlining chords is replaced with a single note line playing an ascending then descending scale moving with the chord changes….

At regular intervals, Rodeo?s rhythmic guitar part is replaced with a single note line playing ascending and descending scales following the chord progression.

Yes, the songs sound similar. Lots of songs sound similar. That doesn’t mean it’s infringement, nor should it. But, in a post Blurred Lines reality, that’s what we have. Two songs having some similarities are suddenly deemed infringing and the lawsuits start flying. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that this case is just settled with the beat creators getting a song-writing credit, because that’s often cheaper and faster than going through a whole court case, but the whole thing is pretty messed up and has nothing to do with the true purpose of copyright law.

Again, though, the recording industry only has itself to blame for this situation. It spent decades pushing a maximalist view of copyright, that everything must be owned and that everything must be licensed. Now it’s discovering what that means in the real world.

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Comments on “Not The First Rodeo: Lil Nas X And Cardi B Hit With Blurred Lines Style Copyright Complaint Over Rodeo”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Speaking as a musician, producer, and also someone who usually agrees with TechDirt’s assessments of infringement, I disagree here. There are many producers whose business is creating "beats" and then selling them to (usually hip-hop) artists to rap over. While these beats are technically musical compositions, they don’t really stand on their own as "songs" since they’re purposely incomplete. I think this is a case of artist with major-label resources ripping off a small-time beat producer and counting on getting away with it.

That guitar track in particular sticks out as being identical. Not just rhythmically and melodically, but the sound (tone in music terms) of the guitar hook is exactly the same in both tracks. If it was in fact re-recorded for Lil Nas X, then a conscious decision was made in the studio to make it sound exactly like the Don Lee. 142 BPM isn’t a particularly common tempo for a piece of music either.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m pretty sure that when I was drunk once, I reproduced that beat as an independent creation (never having heard of or listened to the original)…

Oh wait, that could never happen, no musicians anywhere have ever played anything that ‘sounded’ like someone else’s creation, that’s what copyright is for (to ensure that nobody ever plays or says anything that sounds similar to anything already in existence, amirite?)

or perhaps it’s a ‘waahhh, I didn’t get paid as much as that guy who is doing something similar to what I did, so I’m going to sue…’

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Okay, why was this comment hidden? How is this abusive, trolling, spam, or even a dumb or incoherent claim? AFAICT, there’s no history of bad behavior from this guy, either.

Sure, it wasn’t nice, but it does have more than just an insult in it, and a lot of comments that only consist of an insult don’t get hidden.

Could someone who flagged this explain why, please?

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I take great offense to being called a sockpuppet. If you bothered to look at my profile, you’d see that I have no affiliation with this “John Smith” you’re referring to.

I just want to know what about this comment is offensive, as I can usually find some reason why every comment is hidden, whether it’s within the comment itself or based on the user.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If it was in fact, exactly the same, that would have been the claim in the lawsuit. That they did not make the claim that the guitar hook was copied, only that there were substantial similarities, of which the guitar hook being an exact replication is not one of them. The claims most on point seem to claim a similar technique is used, but does not state that the exact notation was used. Specificity in a copyright claim is encouraged when it is in favor of the claim. The claim details issues in the entirety of the work sounding similar in themes (strings set against hip-hop), being in the same genre (chord usage), and similarity of techniques (shifting to a less complex guitar part to perform basic scales).

Copyright, in so much it exists, exists only in the exact notation, and minor variations thereupon. This lawsuit does not allege copying of exact portions, but similarities in the "sound", "feel", and techniques of the piece, which was the concern around the blurred lines ruling, as the "sound", "feel" and musical techniques are not the copyright able elements of a composition.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problem here isn’t whether they might a legitimate claim that Don Lee’s song was copied (or portions, or in some way, rerecorded or not). They are not trying to present the fact that the songs sound similar as evidence that copying occurred. They are not alleging that any copying occurred. The problem is that they are only alleging that the songs sound similar and that sounding similar is infringement in and of itself.

Steve says:

Re: Re:

"142 BPM isn’t a particularly common tempo for a piece of music either" Maybe not the music you make/listen to mate. But it’s a very common bpm in the UK for various dance genres also quite common in dub-step. And I totally disagree on the guitar too, not even the same pattern. They do ‘feel’ very similar but that’s why genres exist.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If any of that was alleged in the complaint, you might have a point. However, there don’t appear to be any allegations of copying the exact track, or even that the tracks sound identical. Furthermore, there doesn’t appear to be a claim that the producer of the infringed piece was in the business of creating such incomplete tracks and selling them or licenses to them for others to use in complete songs. The only claim seems to be that they have a similar feel, like in Blurred Lines. That’s the problem.

Also, tempo isn’t copyrightable, and I’ve played several songs with a tempo of 142 BPM while in orchestra, so even if it’s not necessarily common, it’s hardly unusual.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So much for karma

It could be curative. Emphasis on the could. Assuming that the RIAA and it’s ilk being forced to roll back this misstep might be forced to accept further rollbacks.

But of course they won’t be. The RIAA will have Congress or the court roll back this and only this misstep, while claiming more must be done to punish pirates. Just not so much that it harms their profits as well.

PNRCinema (profile) says:

I'm not usually a novice on this stuff..

But could someone give me a legit reason WHY the "Blurred Lines" case wasn’t appealed to the Supreme Court? Am I mistaken, or didn’t Pharell and Thicke just roll over and accept an appellate court decision? I seem to remember that the appellate court got every aspect of that case completely BACKWARDS….but maybe it was SCOTUS and i’m just not remembering it correctly….

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

People who built a moat of quicksand to protect their IP, shocked just shocked, that it has expanded and is now pulling them down.

Of course they only want to fix the little bits that are harming them today, ignoring that building a massive quicksand moat is a bad thing as it will eventually suck everything into it.

We need copyright reform based in reality, pay the creators & stop funding the lifestyles of the offspring 40 years later.

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