Rick Astley Is Suing Yung Gravy Over “Betty (Get Money)”
When is a sample not a sample?
If you’ve listened to rapper Yung Gravy’s song “Betty (Get Money),” you’ve probably noticed something: it appears to heavily sample Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” itself ubiquitous for both its catchiness and for its presence in the phenomenon of rickrolling. The emphasis there is on “appears,” however — and it’s led Astley to take legal action against Yung Gravy.
As Pitchfork reports, Astley is working with the same legal team that represented Marvin Gaye’s estate in the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Yung Gravy of misleading listeners with the song’s production. “Defendants conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice throughout the song. The imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice was so successful the public believed it was actually Mr. Astley singing and/or a direct sample,” the lawsuit states.
As it turns out, that’s not a sample of the original song in “Betty.” Yung Gravy explained the process in an interview with Billboard last August. “My boy Nick, who does a lot of sample replays and recreating original samples, we basically remade the whole song,” he explained. “Had a different singer and instruments, but it was all really close because it makes it easier legally.”
He went on to discuss getting approval for that version. “At first, two of the three writers that had to approve it, approved it and one guy wanted us to make it a little bit cleaner,” he told Billboard. As Pitchfork notes, there is some precedent for successfully suing someone for using a sound-a-like. Pitchfork’s article cites a lawsuit that Bette Midler won against Ford for that reason, and Tom Waits had similar success suing Frito-Lay on the same grounds.
It’ll be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out, though it seems a little more cut-and-dried than the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit — and more specific in its potential implications.
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