Beyonce’s lawyers have failed in a bid to have a copyright lawsuit stemming from her hit “Formation” dismissed.
The 2016 track features spoken word segments from the work of the late social media celebrity Messy Mya, real name Anthony Barre.
The funnyman’s estate, led by his sister Angel Barre, filed legal papers in February, demanding royalties, damages and insisting her brother be credited as a writer, composer, producer and artist on the track.
U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown denied Beyonce’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit on fair use grounds.
In a 66-page judicial decision, obtained by editors at The Hollywood Reporter, Brown wrote, “Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged in their complaint that Defendants did not change or alter the ‘expressive content or message’ of Anthony Barre’s YouTube videos.”
At this stage of the court case allegations made by the plaintiff are presumed to be true, and the judge found Barre’s lawyers made a plausible case that the song’s use of the clips in which Messy Mya says “What happened at the New Orleans,” and, “B##ch, I’m back by popular demand” did not transform the meaning of the spoken word clips.
Under U.S. copyright law, artists can sample the work of another if they can show their use has substantially changed its meaning.
The judge also denied Beyonce’s attorneys’ motions to dismiss Barre’s complaints of false endorsement and of flouting Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act claims.
However she did dismiss a claim for unjust enrichment.
“Formation,” the lead single from Beyonce’s critically revered Lemonade album was a hit around the world and the 35-year-old star even performed the track at last year’s Super Bowl event.
Messy Mya, who was also an aspiring rapper, died in 2010 at the age of just 22, after he was shot multiple times in New Orleans, Louisiana.