Rick Astley filed a lawsuit claiming Yung Gravy and his collaborators secured rights to re-record the melody and lyrics of some of his 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” for their track “Betty (Get Money),” they recorded it too close to the original and infringed on his “right of publicity” by “flagrantly impersonat[ing] Astley’s voice.”
Interpolations provide producers with more flexibility and creativity, and Astley’s lawsuit has music executives questioning if it could “open the floodgates to litigation or at least tamp down the practice.”
To the average listener, the “Betty (Get Money)” intro hinges on what sounds like a direct sample of “Never Gonna Give You Up.” But, as Gravy told Billboard months ago, he and his collaborators instead “basically remade the whole song” in the studio. “[We] had a different singer and instruments, but it was all close because it makes it easier legally,” he said.
Danielle Middleton, senior director of a producer/songwriter management firm, notes that “Nostalgia is huge right now,” many artists are looking to quickly jump onto the trend by flipping familiar tunes into something new.
According to the lawsuit, Astley’s lawyer claims the singer has been “looking to collaborate with another artist and producer to create something new with his voice from ‘Never Gonna Give You Up,'” but because of the “nearly indistinguishable” imitation of Astley in “Betty (Get Money),” his opportunities to do this have been “obliterated.”
While Milk & Honey founder Lucas Keller says the popularity of Yung Gravy’s tune with such a prominent interpolation of “Never Gonna Give You Up” may hinder opportunities for a significant sample placement for Astley’s original tune in the short term, the other publishing executive adds that they believe the opposite is true long-term.
“If you’d look at James Brown or Parliament Funkadelic or any number of people that are often sampled, I feel like statistically, the more your work is used, it means you’re more likely to get sampled again.”
Lawyer Richard Busch is representing Astley in his lawsuit and adds, “We might get to a place where things start to feel like, ‘Why am I interpolating anyways when I might get sued?'”
– Excerpt from an article for Billboard by Kristin Robinson. Read the full article here.
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