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Madonna Wins Copyright Battle

Written by Fozia Cheychi on 07 June 2016

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VGM Salsoul- the original copyright owners to the Salsoul Orchestra ensemble sued the superstar amid claims that Madonna took part of the horn section from their track ‘Ooh I Love it (Love Break). The sample of music lasted an alleged 0.23 seconds. The producer of the original track was Shep Pettibone, who later made ‘Vogue’ with Madonna.

In the lawsuit, VGM Salsoul had demanded compensation for the use of a part of their band’s track without permission.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have now upheld a 2013 decision of a lower court which found that the contentious part taken by Madonna was too trivial to warrant attention and that the part was ‘de minimis’ and not worthy of compensation.

Having listened to the snippet, Judge Susan Graber or Portland Oregon ruled “We conclude that a reasonable juror could not conclude that an average audience would recognize the appropriation of the horn.” Judge Susan Graber further wrote “The Defendants copied, at most, a quarter-note single horn hit and a full measure containing rests and a double horn hit.”

The decision however was not unanimous and dissenting judge Barry Silverman commented that use of the snippet on ‘Vogue’ rather than hiring new musicians or paying for a license amounted to theft. He wrote: “It is no defence to theft that the thief made off with only a “de minimis” part of the victim’s property.” He continued “a copyright of a recording amounted to a valuable property right, the stock-in-trade of artists who make their living recording music and selling records”.

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