Madonna prevails in copyright lawsuit over Vogue song

Madonna prevails in copyright lawsuit in a case about a fraction-of-a-second horn sample being used in her 1990 hit, 'Vogue'.
Madonna at an event in New York City on May 2, 2016.
Madonna at an event in New York City on May 2, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Pop singer Madonna prevailed on Thursday in a copyright lawsuit over her song Vogue that alleged one of her producers copied a fraction-of-a-second segment of horns from a song he had also worked on.

In a 2-1 vote, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California ruled that a general audience would not recognise the 0.23-second snippet in Vogue as originating from the song Love Break.

Shep Pettibone, a producer of  Vogue, also recorded Love Break in the early 1980’s, according to the court ruling.

The plaintiff, VMG Salsoul LLC, owns the copyright to Love Break and alleged Pettibone sampled the “horn hit” from the earlier work and added it to Vogue.

But the appeals court ruled in favour of Madonna, Pettibone and other defendants including Warner Bros Records.

“Defendants copied, at most, a quarter-note single horn hit and a full measure containing rests and a double horn hit,” Circuit Judge Susan Graber wrote for the majority.

“A reasonable jury could not conclude that an average audience would recognise an appropriation of the Love Break composition.”

The dissenting judge, Barry Silverman, said even a small sample of music, used without a licence, should be a copyright violation.

“In any other context, this would be called theft,” Silverman wrote.

Robert Besser, a lawyer for VMG Salsoul, said in a phone interview: “I agree with the dissent because it should be an infringement for copying any piece of any sound recording.”

He said his client would review its legal options.

A lawyer for Madonna could not immediately be reached for comment.