A New Orleans jazz musician lost his four-year sampling battle with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion Tuesday (Sept. 22) ruling that the famous hip hop duo did not infringe on his songs.
Paul Batiste sued the hip-hop duo in New Orleans in 2017, alleging the group copied eleven of his songs. Batiste, a local jazz musician, filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement, accusing them of digitally sampling his songs without permission. Batiste said that the group used brief snippets of his copyrighted sound recordings in five of their songs, “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us,” “Same Love,” “Neon Cathedral” and “Need to Know,” according to court documents.
The lower court disagreed, finding Batiste failed to demonstrate that the group had “access to his music or that their songs were strikingly similar to his,” according to court documents. The court also ordered both Batiste and his attorney to pay Macklemore’s attorney fees. Batiste appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit.
In reviewing Batiste’s case, the three Appellate court judges said that in order to prevail the jazz musician needed to show factual copying that demonstrated that the duo “actually used the copyrighted material to create (their) own work.” Without direct evidence of copying, Batiste needed to prove that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis had access to his works and that there was a “probative similarity” between them, according to the panel of judges.
At trial, Batiste argued that the group heard his music because his songs had been widely disseminated. Batiste also argued that Macklemore and Lewis once played at a bar in New Orleans in 2011 that was “not too far” from a record store that sold his music. The appellate court, however, found “dissemination of Batiste’s music was quite limited.” In addition, while Macklemore and Lewis both testified that they might have spent the night in New Orleans in 2011, they also said they did not visit any record stores while in town. In light of those facts, the appellate court ruled that Batiste did not show that the group had an opportunity to even hear his music. The judges said Batiste did not show there was any “strikingly similarity ” between his and Macklemore & Lewis’ songs.
“Because Batiste can’t show access or striking similarity, he can’t prove factual copying,” the appellate court decision states. “Without proof that the defendants copied his works, Batiste’s copyright claims fail.”
Read the court’s decision below: