Apr 9, 2024 1 min read

Universal sued over sample on 1992 Mary J Blige track

A New York based label last week sued Universal Music Publishing over an unapproved sample on 1992 Mary J Blige song ‘Real Love’. A Universal label, which released Blige’s track, has seemingly settled a claim by Tuff City Records on the recordings side, but the Universal publisher is yet to engage

Universal sued over sample on 1992 Mary J Blige track

Universal Music Publishing has been sued over a sample on Mary J Blige's 1992 song 'Real Love', with the owner of the sampled track expressing bemusement that the label which released Blige's record has settled its claim but the publisher will not. That label being, well, Universal Music

New York based independent Tuff City Records says it has "repeatedly" advised the Universal publishing company that 'Real Love' includes an unapproved sample of 1972 Honey Drippers track 'Impeach The President', in which it controls both the recording and song rights. And yet, it says, UMPG "has repeatedly refused to engage in substantive negotiations to rectify the foregoing, let alone agreed to compensate plaintiff for the past infringement or on an ongoing basis". 

In a lawsuit filed last week, it adds that the publisher’s “refusal to cooperate with plaintiff is difficult to reconcile with the fact that plaintiff reached an agreement with UMG Recordings Inc with respect to the presence of the uncleared sample from ‘Impeach the President’ on the master sound recording of 'Real Love'.

It's not entirely clear why it took Tuff City more than three decades to go legal over the uncleared sample in 'Real Love'. This is by no means the company's first time filing a lawsuit as part of a sample dispute, having previously instigated litigation over allegedly unlicensed samples on tracks released by the likes of Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Frank Ocean. Although many of those lawsuits were ultimately dismissed. 

In terms of the 'Real Love' legal battle, Tuff City would like actual damages plus the defendant's profits from the alleged infringement, or statutory damages of up to $150,000.

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