Jun 19, 2024 2 min read

Megan Thee Stallion song-theft lawsuit dismissed

Last year Megan Thee Stallion was accused of ripping off a 1999 track on her hit ‘Savage’. A lawsuit claimed that ‘Savage’ producer J White Did It had access to the earlier track via his manager. However, a judge ruled that there is insufficient evidence to prove that claim and dismissed the lawsuit

Megan Thee Stallion song-theft lawsuit dismissed

A New York court has dismissed a song-theft lawsuit filed against Megan Thee Stallion last year over her 2020 hit ‘Savage’. The judge hearing the case was not convinced by the theory for how the rapper’s producer, J White Did It, got access to - and then ripped off - a track called ‘It’s About To Be On’, which was made 20 years earlier. 

The creator of ‘It’s About To Be On’, James A Greene, said that White’s manager Klenord ‘Shaft’ Raphael was the connection between his track and the producer. However, judge Katherine Polk Failla concluded that, even when “generously construed”, Greene’s lawsuit did not provide “sufficient direct or circumstantial evidence” to support the claim that Megan Thee Stallion and her creative team had “reasonable access” to the earlier work. 

To demonstrate that a new song has infringed the copyright in an old song you need to do two things: prove the artists behind the new song had access to the old song, and that the two songs are sufficiently similar to constitute infringement. 

If you can show that the two songs are “so strikingly similar as to preclude the possibility of independent creation”, then a court might take access as a given, but that is hard to do. And, despite Greene’s best efforts, Polk Failla did not accept there was striking similarity between ‘It’s About To Be On’ and ‘Savage’. 

Therefore Greene had to show White had access to his track. ‘It’s About To Be On’ isn’t well known. Indeed, it isn’t even on the streaming services, having been made when digital music was in its infancy and only subsequently posted to YouTube. Therefore Greene needed to provide to the court a convincing ‘chain of events’ to explain how White had access to his track

That’s where Raphael comes in. Greene claims that he first met Raphael in 2000 at a Lil Kim studio session and again in 2004 when he was playing some tracks to a Bad Boy Records assistant. In 2000, he says, he gave Raphael two CDs containing his work, and in 2004 he left another CD with the Bad Boy staff member. 

In 2005, Raphael met White, and subsequently became the producer’s mentor and manager. In that role, Greene alleges, Raphael would “give White music created by other producers” as if it was his own and then encourage White to “reproduce” that music. 

Basically, Greene says, White was encouraged to do what is known as ‘beat jacking’. That beat jacking created “the mechanism” via which White got access to ‘It’s About To Be On’, which he then copied when working on ‘Savage’ many years later. 

It’s a good story, but not - reckons Polk Failla - a compelling explanation for how White had access to ‘It’s About To Be On’. And, given the similarity between ‘Savage and Greene’s track is not particularly striking, the lawsuit was duly dismissed.

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