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Anthony Barre heir says music sampling industry crumbles if judge dismisses case against Beyoncé

By Melissa Busch | May 28, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — The heir of a New Orleans comedian and musician filed a memorandum, opposing Beyoncé’s motion to dismiss a copy infringement lawsuit filed for her “Formation” video, noting that the music sampling industry could collapse if the case is thrown out.

On May 19, the estate of Anthony Barre and its sole heir, Angel Barre, filed a memorandum in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, stating the court should deny the motion to dismiss because doing so allows the defendants to create an uneven playing field in which world-famous artists could sample music and dare less powerful artists, such as Barre, to sue them.

Beyoncé’s song “Formation” uses spoken word samples from Barre, a music artist known as “Messy Mya,” who was murdered in 2010. He was known for his raspy voice and catchphrases, such as “What happened at the New Orleans?” and “B----, I’m back by popular demand,” both of which can be heard verbatim in Beyoncé's song, according to court documents.

The suit filed by the estate claims the samples infringe on the rights of Barre's performance art, "A 27 Piece Huh?" and "Booking the Hoes from New Wildings."

According to the memorandum, the defendants not only sought to exploit and ultimately profited from “literally to the tune of millions of dollars,” but they also failed to properly reveal how its theme was deeply connected to Messy Mya’s work. Her Formation World Tour alone raked in more than $256 million, according to reports.  

The entire theme of the album, Lemonade, references New Orleans, including Hurricane Katrina and the musical bounce culture. 

“The heart of it is captured by the actual unmodified voice of Messy Mya,” who was known throughout New Orleans and the nation as a performer, comedian, social critic, transgender activist and MC of the bounce culture, according to court records.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants are aware that liability for the use of Messy Mya’s catchphrases implicates several facets of intellectual property, including the voice, music and overall contribution of the appropriated material not only to "Formation," but also to the entire Lemonade album.  

According to the memorandum, if the defendants are permitted to copy and use the actual voice and words from Barre’s YouTube videos without compensation, the plaintiff claims the sampling industry would be destroyed because artists would not have an incentive to create new works, according to court documents.

“Not only would independent artists not be paid, the major entertainment companies, such as Sony, would not receive compensation when their works are used by others,” according to court documents.

In February, Beyoncé’s representation asked the court to dismiss the claim, saying her use of 10 seconds of Messy Mya’s YouTube clips is protected by the fair-use doctrine because she repurposed the clips and created a new body of work that served a totally different purpose. Beyoncé also argued that the video’s producer had legally licensed Messy Mya’s work.

In the memorandum, the plaintiffs claim the defendants knew that the alleged licenses granted to them were invalid and may not have been granted by a representative of Barre's estate. Furthermore, the plaintiffs noted the alleged license agreement, proof of payment, copyright and proof of relationship were never provided to the court.

“While defendants contend that the alleged fraudulent license is beyond the scope of the motion, it certainly forms part of the reckless unprofessional dealings of the defendants,” according to the memorandum.

His estate is seeking royalties, damages and an order that Barre be credited as a writer, composer, producer and artist on the track.

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana