Sony face fair use defence over alleged samples

July 2013

Recorded music


Sony Music has been told that it can take a copyright claim it made on an independent music label and “forget about it”. Sony sent the independent label Gummy Soul a copyright claim over the Bizarre Tribe album, a mashup of hip hoppers The Pharcyde and A Tribe Called Quest sample sources.

The new recordings were made by Amerigo Gazaway whose label responded to Sony by “thanking Sony for its interest”. However, it says that it is unwarranted, and that the larger label has no real claim in the content saying “Thanks for reaching out. The fact that our small independent label warranted the resources of your legal team speaks to our work ethic and we appreciate the validation. In response to your copyright infringement claim over Gummy Soul’s Bizarre Tribe; A Quest To The Pharcyde by Amerigo Gazaway, understand the vast majority of the samples used to create Bizarre Tribe were not taken from the catalog of A Tribe Called Quest (“ATCQ”),”

The letter goes on to say: “What your diligence failed to uncover is that Gummy Soul is not in the business of merging one artist’s instrumentals with vocals of another. Had one of the six Sony attorneys copied in your email deemed it necessary to listen to Bizarre Tribe before pursuing legal action, you would know that our projects are much more nuanced.”

According to the letter Gazaway had taken original samples to make his recording, and where ATCQ content was used, it was short and only part of a documentary style presentation. The use should, says Gummy Soul, count as “fair use” arguing “With the defense presented in your statement, either Gummy Soul and Sony Music are both protected under our shared interpretation of fair use, or you believe the law should apply differently to small, independent record labels than it does to giant, mega conglomerates like Sony Music,” and “As to your charge of offering this product for sale, we do not, and have never, sold the album in any capacity be it physical or digital. We bear no responsibility for the vinyl bootlegging of Bizarre Tribe, nor do we receive any monetary benefits from their sales. The majority of our digital products, including Bizarre Tribe, are offered free of cost and is stated as such on any platform for which we control and have made Bizarre Tribe available.”

Gummy Soul said that it has taken the content down to “avoid a meritless and costly lawsuit”.

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