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Appeals court confirms Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s win in sample case

By | Published on Wednesday 23 September 2020

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

The Fifth Circuit appeals court in the US has upheld a ruling in favour of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis over allegations that they used uncleared samples in their 2012 hit ‘Thrift Shop’. The appeals court also upheld a separate judgement that the claimant in the case, jazz artist Paul Batiste, should cover some of the duo’s legal costs.

Batiste sued Macklemore and Lewis in 2017 claiming that both ‘Thrift Shop’ and another track, ‘Neon Cathedral’, stole beats and horn melodies from his songs ‘Hip Jazz’ and ‘World Of Blues’, which date from 1997 and 2000 respectively.

The lawsuit was dismissed last year with the lower court concluding that Batiste had failed to demonstrate either that Macklemore and Lewis had had access to his earlier songs, or that there were any instances of sampling in their tracks. Or, for that matter, that there was any ‘striking similarity’ between their records and his.

Batiste appealed that decision. Meanwhile, Macklemore and Lewis argued that the jazz musician should cover some of their legal costs because his claims were “objectively baseless and unreasonable from the outset” and both he and his attorney were guilty of “egregious misconduct”. That ‘egregious misconduct’ included Batiste writing his own musicologist report and getting a third party ‘expert’ to pretend he’d written in.

The lower court agreed that because of Batiste’s conduct he should cover some of Macklemore and Lewis’ legal costs, to the tune of $125,000. Batiste then appealed that judgement too, meaning the Fifth Circuit had two things to consider. They sided with the lower court and Macklemore and Lewis on both.

In a summary of their decision, the Fifth Circuit judges wrote: “A local jazz musician, Paul Batiste, sued an internationally famous hip hop duo for copyright infringement. He says the group digitally sampled his songs. Finding no evidence of copying, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants and then ordered both Batiste and his attorney to pay the defendants’ attorneys’ fees. Batiste appealed. We lack jurisdiction to review the fee award against Batiste’s attorney but otherwise affirm the district court’s judgments”.