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Copyrights Entertainment and Sports Law Litigation

Fifth Circuit’s Decision in Sampling Case Considers Automatic Liability Controversy

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of internationally successful hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in a music sampling suit brought against them by New Orleans jazz musician Paul Batiste.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of internationally successful hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in a music sampling suit brought against them by New Orleans jazz musician Paul Batiste. Batiste v. Lewis, 19-30400 (5th Cir. 2020). The decision is notable for the Fifth Circuit’s use of the “widespread dissemination” and “chain of events” tests to determine whether the defendants had access to Batiste’s works, neither which approach it said it had previously expressly adopted. In the opinion, the 5th Circuit also weighed in on the controversial Sixth Circuit opinion in Bridgeport Music Inc. v. Dimension Films, 383 F.3d 390 (6th Cir. 2004), which held that any sampling — even if digitally altered — from a pre-existing sound recording is automatic copyright infringement.

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