Reggae/dancehall music and reggaeton music are fighting each other. A legal battle in which the production company is the protagonist on one side. Reggae Styles and Clevi and on the other, almost all the major reggaeton artists. The stakes are very high because Styles and Clevi (pictured) claim that 163 defendants in the lawsuit they initiated, including Bad Bunny, Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi, Justin Bieber, Pitbull, Drake, Rau Alejandro, Diploillegally included elements of their riddim Fish market (1989) in over 1,800 songs released between 1995 and 2021 without permission.
The songs considered included some of the decade’s biggest hits, including Despacito Remix Luis Fonsi with Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee; MY by Bad Bunny with Drake; One Dance Drake with Wizkid and Kayla; Dame Tu Koshita El Chombo with Cutty Ranks; Hard by Daddy YankeeGasolina and Shaky Shaky; Taki Taki by DJ Snake featuring Selena Gomez, Ozuna, Cardi B; and “We Are One” by Pitbull.
However, about a hundred artists sued immediately filed three motions to dismiss the case in response to allegations of copyright infringement. Three California court documents obtained by DancehallMag reveal the motivation behind the defendants’ defense: drum and bass elements allegedly pirated from the riddim. Fish market since 1989 by Steely & Clevie and used in nearly 1,700 reggaeton songs, are common and not subject to copyright protection under US law. In their view, Jamaican producers (Steeles passed away in 2009) cannot claim ownership of the core musical elements that define almost all reggaeton music created over the past 30 years.
Defendants further argue that the rhythm of reggaeton is similar to the distinctive and fundamental characteristics of other musical genres – from the “low beats” of reggae to the standard four chords of rock music (E, B, C minor and A), and even the repetitive rhythmic patterns found in salsa music “The plaintiffs claim to be masters of an entire genre of basic music – “reggaeton rhythm, based on simple, mechanical, common musical elements that are not protected by any copyright and are nothing more than ordinary single-note drum rhythms.”– they wrote in a motion to dismiss the case.
Defendants WK Records and Bad Bunny urged the court to dismiss the case, arguing that no reasonable jury could have found 1,700 songs substantially similar to the riddim. Fish market by Steely & Clevie. Meanwhile, a third motion to dismiss was filed by Luis Fonsi, Justin Bieber, Daddy Yankee, Pitbull, Rau Alejandro, El Chombo, Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin, Stefflon Don and 79 other defendants, represented by Pryor Cashman LLP.
On September 22, in a California courtroom, federal Judge Andre Birotte Jr. will have to decide whether to dismiss the case or agree with the two Jamaican producers, one of whom, Styles, has disappeared. Their victory would mean a huge shock not only for Reggaeton, but for the entire music industry as a whole. Conversely, a loss would mean setbacks for those involved in Jamaican music seeking both financial reward and historical recognition for their contributions that have become seminal to the Latin genre. Fish market is a historic riddim in the Jamaican music industry, dating back to the late 1980s and first used in a song. Little Man Jam Gregory Peck and Dem Look Shabba ranks
Chaos broke out when Fish market It was later adapted into a cover version of the song in Spanish. Dem Look authorized Ellos Beniain the instrumental mix known as Pounder riddim. Steely & Clevie claim the riddim Pounder The adapted one was “substantially similar, if not virtually identical” to their original creation, and was widely used in reggaeton music in subsequent years.
The suit, filed separately against the three sets of defendants in 2021, has since undergone consolidation, expansion and numerous changes, including the addition of the estate of late Jamaican producer Ephraim “Count Shelley” Barrett as plaintiff and owner of the riddim Pounder, a move aimed at addressing a potential technical error in some of Steely & Clevie’s copyright statements. But the more controversial question is whether the rhythm itself can be protected by copyright.
In the US, rhythms are generally outside the scope of copyright protection. However, some musicologists believe that if a rhythm can be proven to be exceptionally unique or original, it may qualify for protection.
In previous documents, the Jamaican producers, represented by the law firm Doniger/Burroughs, insisted that Fish market it was more than just “rhythm” and deserved copyright protection because of its combination of different musical elements.
“Fish Market’s two-beat rhythm is original and consists of interconnected layers of instruments, timbres and harmonics (bass) and rhythmic (kick, snare and tom drums, hi-hat, timbales and tambourine) elements, essentially repeating. throughout the song,” lawyers for the Jamaican producers explained in testimony. The plaintiffs also argue that the single-note bass line contained in the rhythm is a “harmonic” element. The legal representatives of the defendants define this as “nonsense”: “harmony by definition requires more than one note.”
Therefore, we await the outcome of the battle regarding riddims, songs and copyrights, which will have to be assessed by the judge in court. The defendants ask that the case be dropped, while Steely & Clevie continues to argue the case.