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Apparently Kendrick Lamar didn't do much on "I do this." The rap star is being sued for use of a 1975 song in work he produced before he was huge. Mattie Music Group, the company that claims ownership of Bill Withers' original "Don't You Want to Stay," says Lamar did not get permission to use the song.
Legal documents filed by the company say Kendrick's 2009 track is a total copy of the original, according to TMZ, and it "consists of nothing more than new rap and hip hop lyrics set to the pre-existing music." But Stereogum reports that the suit is likely to be a bust because Lamar added substantially to his production and didn't make money off his song.
The song in question -- "I do this" -- was available as a free download apparently and Lamar did not make money off it, even if he may have indirectly profited. This makes a request for damages more difficult to prove and possibly less likely to succeed. If Lamar's profits are not quantifiable and critics are right that he substantially added value with his later lyrics and production, then Mattie Music may be singing the blues over this lawsuit.
There are few details reported about the claim, however, so it is difficult to say what precisely is being alleged without more information. Generally speaking, it seems to be a copyright claim based on failure to license the original work,
Intellectual property law generally defines copyright as a person or entity's exclusive right to reproduce, publish, sell, or license original work. The work may literary or musical, dramatic, artistic or architectural. If it is copyrighted, you need a license to use it in derivative works, like Lamar's, although there are limited exceptions.
The Fame Trap
Rap music traditionally uses samples, and they are often licensed. But not always. For rappers who remain unknown, their mixes sold on the street, there is little risk of discovery of a copyright violation. Kendrick Lamar is just lucky enough to be facing this lawsuit now because he has definitely entered the ranks of the famous.