Sony Music Publishing is facing a lawsuit over unpaid royalties from the Lizzo track, “About Damn Time.”
Peermusic and Satisfaction Fulfilled Ltd. are suing the publisher over the track “Hey! DJ”, a 1984 release from The World’s Famous Supreme team, which was co-written by Malcolm McLaren. The copyright for “Hey! DJ” was split between Malcolm McLaren, Larry Price and Ronald Larkins of The World’s Famous Supreme Team, and producer Stephen Hague.
The lawsuit alleges that reps for Lizzo approached Peermusic about using the track because it administers Mclaren’s catalog. In those negotiations, a third of the copyright for “About Damn Time” was allocated to the writers of “Hey! DJ” with McLaren receiving 25% of that allocation—or 8.335%.
“On February 14, 2022, Alien Music Services (“Alien”), a music clearance company acting on behalf of Atlantic recording artist Lizzo, reached out to Peer as administrator of the McLaren catalog to solicit a quote for Lizzo’s use of a sample of HDJ in the song “About That Time” (later changed to “About Damn Time”). The request identified McLaren as an author of the work for which the license was sought, along with Hague, Price and Larkins. Alien explained that the sample was an “interpolation,” meaning that Lizzo would be using an excerpt of the musical work co-authored by McLaren but not Virgin’s recording of that work.”
Sony Music Publishing argues that the version of “Hey! DJ” featured in the Lizzo track is actually a B-side instrumental version only.
“Sony doubled down on its specious assertion that the sample was taken from the instrumental version, ignoring the fact that the same instrumental music—including the melodic phrase sampled by Lizzo—is contained in the vocal version co-authored by McLaren from which the instrumental version was derived,” the lawsuit reads.
“In yet another maneuver to divert Peermusic, licensing fees to itself, on information and belief, Sony in the last few months registered the B-side instrumental version of ‘Hey! DJ’ with the UK performing rights society PRS for Music, some four decades after it was released.”
Now Peermusic and Satisfaction Fulfilled Ltd. are asking New York courts to confirm Malcolm McLaren as the co-owner of the copyright in all versions of “Hey! DJ” and that includes cutting in his estate for its royalty share of Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” track with the featured sample.