A famed Indian composer has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the recent hit single “Addictive” by Truth Hurts featuring Rakim borrowed heavily and without permission from a 20-year-old Hindi song. The lawsuit also charges American producers, including hip-hop impresario Dr. Dre, with practicing a form of “cultural imperialism” by not crediting Third World artists.
Songwriter Bappi Lahiri filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday seeking a halt to the further sale of the album “Truthfully Speaking” on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records, his lawyer said.
Aside from Dre, whose real name is Andre Ramelle Young, the defendants named in the lawsuit include Aftermath parent Interscope and the Universal Music Group. A spokesperson for Universal said the company does not comment on pending litigation. Dre’s lawyer, Howard King, said Lahiri was trying to capitalize on Dr. Dre’s celebrity.
Lahiri claims that the producers of “Addictive” lifted four minutes of the original recording by Indian artist Lata Mangeshkar of the song “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai.” “They literally superimposed their own drum track and lyrics over the beat,” said Lahiri’s lawyer Anthony Kornarens. “It’s not just a small loop.”
“It’s our opinion that the label simply took it for granted that Hindi music was something they didn’t need pay for, that it could be used simply at will,” Kornarens said.
Truth Hurts’ album has sold about 600,000 copies since it was released in June, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Addictive,” produced by DJ Quik, was released as a single and reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
King said his client had little to do with the production of “Truthfully Speaking.” “There’s no reason for him to be a defendant in this lawsuit, except that somebody’s taking advantage of his name,” King said. “He didn’t write or perform on the record. It happens to have been released on a label he’s part owner of.”
Saregama India Ltd., the Bombay-based film and music company that produced the original recording of Lahiri’s song, filed its own suit last month in federal court in Houston, seeking $500 million in damages.
The case is the latest in a series of copyright cases related to “sampling,” the practice of digitally extracting recorded passages and inserting them into new recordings. Most recently, flutist James Newton sued the Beastie Boys over the use of a brief sample from his recording of his own composition “Choir” for the Beastie Boys’ “Pass the Mic.” A federal judge in Los Angeles recently dismissed Newton’s suit on the grounds that the flutist was seeking to protect a flute-playing technique rather than the copyrighted music.
But other cases have established an artist’s right to copyright protection from sampling. In most cases, record companies are forced to negotiate licensing agreements with producers of sampled music.
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