VMG Salsoul LLC filed a complaint for copyright infringement on July 11, 2012 in California District Court against Madonna, Shep Pettibone, and other music industry-related defendants. At the heart of the complaint is a claim for copyright infringement based on illegal sampling. According to the complaint, the timeless Madonna classic, “Vogue” contains intentionally hidden illegal samples of the late 1970’s song, “Chicago Bus Stop (Ooh I love it) (Love Break).” Essentially, VMG is challenging whether Madonna deserves all the credit (and, on a more practical note, the profits) for striking a pose with Vogue.
The complaint alleges that, “portions of ‘Love Break’ which have been copied into Vogue and all its various ‘mixes,’ ‘remixes,’ videos, YouTube versions, etc., are numerous but intentionally hidden. The horn and strings in Vogue are intentionally sampled from ‘Love Break’ throughout.” Have a listen and see if you can hear the horn and strings:
Pettibone serves as the bridge between the two songs at issue here. He first worked on mixing and remixing Love Break and later worked on Vogue. According to the complaint, Pettibone is to blame for the alleged cover-up.
Although at first blush it seems a bit late to bring a lawsuit based on a song that debuted in 1990, VMG claims that it was not able to detect the intentionally hidden sampling until the release of new technology last year. Whether this factor will be enough to avoid a likely statute of limitations defense remains to be seen (or, more appropriately in this case, heard).
The case is VMG Salsoul LLC v. Madonna Louise Ciccone et al., case number 12-cv-05967, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.