Judge Dismisses Copyright Claim Against 'Despacito' Co-Writers

Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee "Despacito"
Courtesy Photo

Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee "Despacito"

A U.S. District Court in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Erika Ender and Universal Music Group alleging copyright infringement in mega-hit "Despacito."

"All pending motions are DENIED AS MOOT (sic). The Clerk is instructed to CLOSE this case,” wrote U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams in a decision dated Aug. 6, referring to a complaint originally filed by Newton Cortes on July 8, 2019.

In his suit, Cortes alleged that the lyrics to "Despacito," which is one of the greatest hits of all time and whose video is the most-viewed in YouTube history, infringed the lyrics to his song "Despasito," registered in 2006. Cortes’ lawsuit sought 20% of the royalties generated from the song, plus $50,000 "as compensation for the unauthorized use" of his work, and statutory damages of $150,000. Cortes alleged that the shared title, plus similar use of some words and short phrases and a similar word count, among other factors, indicated infringement.

Shortly after Cortes’ suit, Yankee, Fonsi, Ender and Universal all filed motions to dismiss the suit, and the judge eventually agreed.

At the crux of the decision was a comparison of the two works side by side which found that "the works are only similar as to unprotectable elements and share no commonality at the level of protectable expression."

In fact, the most apparent similarity -- the song title (spelled "Despasito" by Cortes)--  was deemed "too short and generic to meet the required threshold for creativity to qualify for copyright protection."

Further, says the judgement, "while Plaintiff’s original arrangement of the word 'Despacito' in his lyrics is protectable, Defendants did not copy any creative selection that could constitute protectable expression."

Fonsi and Universal were represented by James Sammataro and Brendan Everman of Pryor Cashman; Edwin Prado represented Daddy Yankee and Joshua Spector represented Erika Ender.