A $20 million copyright infringement lawsuit against Beyoncé's "Formation" has been given new legs by a Louisiana judge. The infringement revolves around three short phrases spoken by the late Anthony Barré, who was well known in New Orleans as Messy Mya, a comedian and bounce rapper.
The samples were taken from two of Barré's most popular YouTube videos, titled “A 27 Piece Huh?” and “Booking The Hoes From New Wildin.” The phrases in question include: “What happened at the New Orleans?” “Bitch, I’m back by popular demand,” and "Oh yeah, baby—I like that.” Barré’s sister, Angel, filed a lawsuit on behalf of her brother for copyright infringement in February of this year, but it wasn't until Thursday that a Louisiana federal judge denied a motion presented from Bey’s legal team to dismiss the copyright claim on fair use grounds.
According to Billboard, U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown found that Angel Barré successfully made a case that Beyonce's use of the clips was "not transformative,” adding that the clips were “qualitatively significant” enough to the song to hold up the lawsuit. Brown added that Beyoncé’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is "viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted."
"Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged in their complaint that Defendants did not change or alter the 'expressive content or message' of Anthony Barré’s YouTube videos, but rather used unmodified clips without adding anything new," wrote Brown in her 66-page decision. You can read Brown’s full decision at The Hollywood Reporter.
With Lemonade, Beyoncé made a concerted effort to celebrate black culture, while simultaneously—and subtly—critiquing the racist reality that many must face everyday in America. Between the visual album's explicit homages to the lives and families of young black men killed by police brutality, and Beyoncé's Super Bowl performance of "Formation" while dressed in Black Panther-esque outfits, Lemonade was heralded as a beautiful example of resistance.
Many applauded Beyoncé's choice to highlight Barré's work. As written in Fusion, to "see a major, internationally successful artist like Beyoncé recognizing their impact, and to set her diverse, sprawling audience on track to learning who they are, is significant."
That said, the lawsuit still stands. It looks like Beyoncé will have to work harder to rid herself of these copyright infringement charges.