Although imitation may be considered by some as the sincerest form of flattery, in the music industry and art world, it's usually considered the basis for a lawsuit.
The estate of Messy Mya, a.k.a. Anthony Barre, a YouTube star that was killed in 2010, is suing superstar Beyonce for $20 million due to an alleged theft of samples. The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages for unpaid royalties and copyright infringement not just from the song sales, but also from the unauthorized use of Mya's work during concerts and in music videos. Barre's estate asserts that Beyonce ignored requests to negotiate the matter.
Details of the Complaint
The complaint alleges that in three specific places on Beyonce's song "Formation," three short samples from Messy Mya's YouTube videos, "A 27-Piece Huh?" and "Booking the Hoes from New Wildin," can be heard. Additionally, Barre's estate explains that the large monetary damages award being sought is due in part to the fact that had Beyonce provided Barre with credit, Barre's popularity would like have increased exponentially.
Although it is rather common for music artists to sample music, there is a right way and a wrong way. Generally, the right way to use another artist's music, or creation, as part of your own creation, is to first request permission from the artist, or their representatives. While some artists will allow others to sample their music for free, most will want some form of compensation, usually structured as a licensing fee or a royalty agreement.
If an artist fails to secure a licensing or royalty agreement, and decides to use another artist's work anyway, they can face civil liability. The consequences are generally monetary, often requiring a set amount of damages or a percentage of profits be paid to the original artist, however, an artist using an unauthorized sample can also be prevented from continuing to use the sample in the future.