Some of your favorite stars have been sued for being "inspired" by the works of others. From photographs to lyrics here is the dirt of how Drake, Lil Kim, and Rihanna found themselves the subject of copyright lawsuits from pretty much unknown folks.
Details: In 2014 Samantha Ravndahl, a Vancouver artist, posted a photo and step by step tutorial on how to create a halloween zombie look. A short time later Kim posted a strikingly similar photo promoting her new mixtape Dead Gal Walking.
Legal Issue: copyright Infringement for unauthorized use of photo or exact recreation of
Outcome: Out of Court Settlement
Legal Lesson: You cannot just take people's pictures from instagram, facebook, or anywhere else on the internet and use them without permission. Period. It is copyright infringement. You can get sued. It will be expense. Do the right thing and either take your own pictures, use royalty free pictures, or get written permission from the person who owns the pictures first.
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Details: In 1972 Cameroonian artist, Manu Dibango, made a song called Soul Makossa. Soul Makossa features the chant, "Mama-ko, mama-sa, ma-ka-ma-ko-ssa," while, "Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa, Ma Ma Coo Sa," appears in Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin Something" and Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop the Music".
Legal Issue 1: copyright infringement vs Rihanna for using lyrics without permission
Legal Issue 2: copyright infringement vs Jackson for violating the rights of Dibango by licensing use of lyrics to Rih when he wasn't the actual owner of the rights to the lyric
Outcome: Out of Court Settlement
Details: In 2013 Drake released a single entitled "Pound Cake" that samples 35 seconds of "Jimmy Smith Rap" by now deceased and basically obscure jazz musician Jimmy Smith. Smith Rap has the lyrics “Jazz is the only real music that’s gonna last. All that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow. But jazz was, is and always will be.” and Graham's Pound Cake cuts the sample down to say "Only real music is gonna last, all that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow"
Legal Issue: copyright infringement for use of the underlying musical composition (i.e. the words to the song as opposed to the actual sample itself)
Outcome: the court found in Drake's favor and said his use was transformative by creating an entirely new message than intended by the original artist and the amount used qualified as fair use and did not infringe on the rights of Jimmy Smith's estate. READ A FULL BREAKDOWN OF WHY HE WON HERE
Legal Lesson from Drake & Rihanna: Don't assume the last person to use a phrase was the first person to use a phrase or that because you have one license you have rights to everything. Really do your research and make sure you are getting permission from the actual copyright owner for all the rights you need and make sure any writer you work with agrees in writing all lyrics are original or are properly licensed from the true owner.
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