Beyonce – Queen of Copyright Infringement?
Female pop singers have been taking over music lately, from their chart-topping hits to social media accounts of their personal lives. Albums have been released in secret, some lyrics leaked in advance, and still they are huge hits, selling millions of copies around the world. These women have started to flex their economic and intellectual property powers, as most recently demonstrated by Taylor Swift. Swift pulled all her music from Spotify, fearing that free listening would hurt her intellectual property rights. Despite this growing power, it appears that these celebrities are not immune from the law.
Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” is just another of Queen Bey’s incredibly popular songs. Since leaving Destiny’s Child, she has seen a rise in fame unlike any other, propelling her and her husband Jay-Z, and their daughter Blue Ivy to be known by fans as America’s royal family. But even royalty is not immune from lawsuits. Just last week, a Hungarian singer named Mitsou filed suit against Beyonce claiming copyright infringement of her 1995 song “Bajba, Bajba Pélem,” which appeared in Ando Drom’s album “Kaj Phirel o Del?” Mitsou claimed that her vocals were sampled and digitally manipulated, first in the intro to the song and allegedly comprising of 29% of the song as a whole.
While Beyonce’s camp has not yet commented, it will be interesting to see where this case ends. Will one of music’s most influential singers be found guilty of infringement, owing monetary damages on one of her biggest hits? Or perhaps have to pull the song from any future sales? Will this damage her reputation? The answer to that, at least, is clear. Her name is so strong that this will likely not derail her. But is this a good thing?
While Beyonce may escape unharmed, Mitsou, and other copyright owners in the US may not. The economic power of these celebrities may be strong enough to allow them to proceed with practical impunity—as a small copyright owner, are you tempted to let celebrities like Beyonce use your music for the notoriety it provides? Is this a blessing or a curse for the smaller copyright owners? Copyright ownership provides the owners with a bundle of rights, allowing them to do what they wish with the work, including doing nothing at all. Here, Beyonce allegedly infringed on that right by using portions of Mitsou’s song without her permission. This case will set an interesting precedent – will the pop star avoid punishment simply because of her status, or will the copyright owner prevail and take a stand for the intellectual property rights of all songwriters and performers? You can be sure the music industry will be anxiously waiting for the answer.