May 23, 2024 2 min read

Beyoncé sued over Break My Soul sample

A New Orleans group have sued Beyoncé, arguing that a sample on her 2022 hit ‘Break My Soul’ comes from a 2014 track that infringed the copyright in a song they wrote in 2002. As a result, they’d like a co-write credit on and a share of the royalties from ‘Break My Soul’

Beyoncé sued over Break My Soul sample

Beyoncé and her label Sony Music have been sued over a Big Freedia sample on her 2022 hit ‘Break My Soul’. However, the lawsuit’s not been filed by Big Freedia, but by a group who claim that the track Beyoncé sampled infringed their copyright. And that infringement was then replicated in ‘Break My Soul’.

The Big Freedia track sampled by Beyoncé is 2014 release ‘Explode’. Members of a group called Da Showstoppaz - who, like Big Freedia, are part of the New Orleans bounce music scene - claim that ‘Explode’ lifts some lyrics from their 2002 song ‘Release A Wiggle’. 

In particular, the key lyric “release a wiggle”, which was tweaked slightly on the Big Freedia track to “release yo wiggle”. 

“The infringing phrase ‘release yo wiggle’ and several other substantially similar phrases are featured prominently” in ‘Explode’, a lawsuit claims, according to Billboard. “Any reasonable person listening to ‘Release A Wiggle’ and ‘Explode’ would conclude that the songs are substantially similar", it adds. 

Moving onto the Beyoncé track with the ‘Explode’ sample, the lawsuit says that Beyoncé and her collaborators “have received many accolades and substantial profits” from the hit record, while “Da Showstoppaz’s have received nothing - no acknowledgment, no credit, no remuneration of any kind”. 

Da Showstoppaz are now looking for co-writing credits and a share of the copyright on both ‘Break My Soul’ and ‘Explode’, with Big Freedia also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. 

It seems a somewhat optimistic claim. Generally, the US courts have been cautious about granting copyright protection to short phrases which might appear in multiple songs. 

Taylor Swift was sued over the lyrics to ‘Shake It Off’ by the writers of an earlier pop song that also referenced players playing and haters hating. Although that litigation was ultimately settled, at one point the judge mused that lyrics about players playing and haters hating were too “banal” to enjoy copyright protection on their own. 

A similar argument could definitely be made about lyrics suggesting the release of any kind of wiggle. And, if Da Showstoppaz can't prove that ‘Explode’ infringes ‘Release A Wiggle’, there would obviously be no claim in relation to the Beyoncé sample. 

Nevertheless, in their lawsuit, Da Showstoppaz insist that the lyrics allegedly lifted by Big Freedia are protected by copyright in isolation, and that Big Freedia, and more recently Beyoncé, have therefore exploited their rights without permission.

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