On Aug. 18, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hallerstein dismissed a 2012 lawsuit filed by indie publisher Mayimba Music against two Sony/ATV Latin music publishing divisions. The suit alleged Shakira’s 2010 hit “Loca,” which reached No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the tune that inspired it, Dominican singer El Cata’s “Loca Con Su Tiguere,” were illegal copies of a song (that bore the same title as El Cata’s) written by Ramon “Arias” Vasquez and allegedly recorded onto a cassette tape in 1998. In August 2014, that tape had prompted Hallerstein to rule in favor of Mayimba, but as this timeline shows, new evidence led the judge to reverse his decision.
Sound technician Juan Pablo West Smith testifies that he helped produce a 1998 cassette recording using a computer program called Fruity Loops, which, he claims, he had downloaded from the Internet in the first eight months of 1997.
Based in part on the cassette, Hallerstein finds Vasquez's and Smith's testimony "credible" and rules that El Cata's and Shakira's songs are unlawful copies of Vasquez's tune. Since Sony/ATV had distributed both songs, the company is liable.
Dominican musician DJ Japones identifies the person on the cassette cover as Jhoan Gabriel Gonzalez, who was 9 years old in 1998. Japones also says that songs on the tape were recorded by his group, The New Collection, in 2008, not 1998.
Wilson Rood, a private investigator for Sony/ATV's counsel, locates Gonzalez -- who testified the cover photo was taken in 2011 -- and a second member of The New Collection who backed Japones. Fruity Loops says the program wasn't available in 1997.
Sony attorneys at Loeb & Loeb file a motion to vacate the court's ruling, based on the new evidence.
The court suspends judgment against Sony and orders a new evidentiary hearing.
In light of the new testimony, Judge Hallerstein orders the case against Sony/ATV dismissed, writing, "I find that the tape was not created in 1998 ... and that therefore Mayimba does not possess a valid copyright."
This article first appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of Billboard.