Beyoncé faces copyright suit while Ed Sheeran settles

Beyoncé is seeking to have a copyright suit brought by the estate of the late rapper Messy Mya dismissed.

The claim relates to Beyoncé’s video and live performances of her song Formation which use a section of audio of Messy Mya. The music video uses 10 seconds of audio from two of Messy Mya’s YouTube videos. Approximately 6 seconds of that audio was also used during live performances of the song on Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour.

Beyoncé’s lawyers claim this limited use falls within the ‘fair use’ doctrine and also that, in any event, the video’s producers Pretty Bird had licensed Messy Mya’s YouTube videos.

In a motion to dismiss, Beyoncé’s lawyers say that the claim has ‘grossly overstated’ the use of the clips, and state that the use of a clip of 10 seconds or less as a raw material which is transformed in the new usage is plainly the type of use the fair use doctrine is intended to protect. They also asked the court to reject any attempt to expand the claim beyond copyright – the complaint alleges copyright infringement, false endorsement, unfair trade practices, and unjust enrichment.

Whilst there is no general fair use doctrine in the UK, there are a number of exceptions to copyright infringement for fair dealing with material: for the purposes of criticism and review; news reporting; quotation; caricature; pastiche and parody.  Whilst the fair use exception in the US and fair dealing exceptions in the UK have similarities, there are significant differences. In practice, use of copyright material which falls within the UK’s fair dealing provisions almost always falls within the fair use exception; but not always vice versa.

In other copyright news, Ed Sheeran is reported to have settled the copyright claim over his track Photograph which zoom-in reported on in our Autumn and Winter 2016 editions. Sheeran was being sued by the writers of X-Factor winner Matt Cardle’s single Amazing, who alleged that Photograph was a note-for-note copy of their song.

The case was dismissed without prejudice by a California court after the parties reached an agreement. The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.