Chance the Rapper is being sued for alleged copyright infringement by a New York lawyer and jazz artist who claimed the rapper used a “significant portion” of his work illegally on the song “Windows.”
Jazz musician and composer Abdul Wali Muhammad, formerly known as Eric P. Saunders, filed the suit Tuesday in a Chicago federal court. The claim described Muhammad as a jazz artist, who practiced civil and criminal rights law in New York, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
The suit claimed that Muhammad composed “Bridge Through Time” and registered the copyright for the song on May 21, 1979. The artist requested a federal judge to demand Chance the Rapper and anyone partnered with him stop to “copying, distributing, performing, selling or offering to sell Chance’s song ‘Windows.'”
The suit alleges Chance the Rapper, a Chicago native whose real name is Chancelor Bennett, consciously used a sample from Muhammad’s song illegally and sold the song regardless of knowledge. The song appeared on Chance the Rapper’s 2012 debut mixtape “10 Day.”
“Chance’s copyright infringement was willful,” the lawsuit read. “Chance knew that he did not have permission to use any part of Muhammad’s copyrighted song, yet he used a significant portion of ‘Bridge Through Time’ in his song ‘Windows.’ Chance also distributed his song ‘Windows’ knowing of the infringement, or acting in willful disregard for whether the song was the subject of the copyright.”
Artist Lonnie Liston Smith recorded “Bridge Through Time” in 1980 and released it under Columbia Records. Smith’s rendition of the song was sampled by various artists about 13 times including rappers Jay Z, UGK, Tha Dogg Pound and Big K.R.I.T., according to music website WhoSampled.
Chicago-based law firm Mark Roth of Roth Fioretti LLC represented Muhammad and claimed their client initially realized the alleged copyright infringement in April. The firm said it communicated with Chance the Rapper’s lawyers in May and requested the rapper to “cease further infringement of the copyright.” The firm claimed that “Chance failed and refused to take any action to halt access to the infringing song.”
Chance the Rapper, 24, initially distributed the “10 Day” mixtape with the controversial song to friends and fans. It was never officially sold but was submitted to iTunes and Apple Music in January. Chance the Rapper took to Twitter and claimed the project was submitted by mistake and promised its removal.
“10 Day was fraudulently put on iTunes and Apple Music. It’ll be down shortly. 10day and acid rap will always be inclusive, elusive and free,” the artist wrote.
10day was fraudulently put on iTunes and applemusic. It'll be down shortly. 10day and acid rap will always be inclusive, elusive and free
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) January 8, 2017
Copyright infringement is considered a crime when a copyrighted work is used without the permission of the owner, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.
“As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner,” according to copyright.gov.
A similar copyright case awarded Marvin Gaye’s children about $7.4 million in 2015 after they determined singers Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied their father’s music to create the 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines.”