Court sides Madonna over Vogue song

The court ruled that the fragment of horns in Madonna’s song Vogue was not plagiarised.
The court ruled that the fragment of horns in Madonna’s song Vogue was not plagiarised. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • In a victory for artists seeking to use samples, 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 United States 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 1980s, 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," 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," he wrote.

Mr Robert Besser, a lawyer for VMG Salsoul, said his client would review its legal options.

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


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Court sides Madonna over Vogue song'. Print Edition | Subscribe