As reported by Law360, the estate of deceased YouTube performer, Anthony Barré, has filed a suit against Beyoncé and Sony Music Entertainment seeking $20 million in damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief for copyright infringement. The complaint alleges that the pop star sampled phrases from Barré’s YouTube videos in her 2016 chart-topping hit “Formation.” Barré gained a following on YouTube under the name “Messy Mya” before he was murdered in New Orleans in 2010. According to the complaint filed in the Eastern District Court of Louisiana, the opening line of the “Formation” music video, “What happened at the New Orleans,” as well as another spoken line, are samples of Barré’s voice that were misappropriated by Beyoncé and Sony. The complaint further alleges that recordings of Barré’s voice were featured throughout the live performances on the Formation World Tour.
Beyoncé is no stranger to copyright infringement suits. As reported by Hollywood Reporter, a New York federal judge dismissed a suit last year which alleged that the star used elements of an independent filmmaker’s short film in the “Lemonade” visual album. This most recent lawsuit comes just days before the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, where Beyoncé is nominated for nine awards, three of which are for “Formation.”
Libby Pica is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).