Madonna defeats Vogue sample lawsuit

December 2013

Sound recordings, artists


Madonna has successfully defeated a claim there was an uncleared sample in her 1990 hit ‘Vogue‘.  American music company VMG sued Madonna and ‘Vogue‘ producer Robert ‘Shep’ Pettibone last year, claiming the duo illegally used a sample from a 1970s recording called ‘Love Break’, which the claimant owns, for their hit single back in 1990. The music firm said that Pettibone had cleverly hidden the sample, but that new technology had revealed that it is definitely there, hence why they were suing over two decades later. The legal claim related to a “single horn stab” that appears in both ‘Love Break‘ and ‘Vogue‘, an alleged sample so short that the court basically said it would be impossible to construct a case for copyright infringement. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the judge ruled: “Having listened to the sound recordings, the court finds that no reasonable audience would find the sampled portions qualitatively or quantitatively significant in relation to the infringing work, nor would they recognise the appropriation. The court finds that any sampling of the horn hit was de minimis or trivial”. The judge in this latest case made it clear that her ruling didn’t contradict or revise the previous rulings in relation to sampling which boil down to ‘get a licence or do not sample’ (see Westbound Records and Bridgeport Music v No Limit Films [2005] 410 F.3d 792, , rather saying that the issue here was that the alleged sample was so hard to hear, there were too many ambiguities as to whether appropriation had or had not taken place (See also

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