GW IPEL Brief

Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Brief

Taking a Chance on Infringement

Close-up Turntable Needle Record Vintage Vintage Style Sound Vinyl Records Vinyl Vinylcollector Vinyljunkie Nsnfotografie Davide Suppo via Compfight

Chance The Rapper has become Chance The Defendant. Last month, Abdul Wali Muhammad, a former jazz musician who now works as a civil rights lawyer, sued the Chicago-based hip-hop sensation for copyright infringement.1 The alleged infringement occurs on a song titled “Windows,” which is featured on Chance’s debut mixtape, 10 Day.2 Muhammad alleges that the song “blatantly and willfully infringed” on “Bridge Through Time,” which has been a registered copyright since May 21, 1979.3 Interestingly, the sampled version of “Bridge Through Time” is a remix created by Apollo Brown, the accredited producer on “Windows.”4

Muhammad first became aware of the alleged infringement in April of 2017.5 He asserts that Chance never contacted him about the song, but acted in spite of not knowing he didn’t have permission to use the sample.6 According to Muhammad’s attorney, Chance’s legal team was contacted in May about the infringement, but “Chance failed and refused to take any action to halt access to the infringing song.”7 As a result, Muhammad requested that a federal judge order Chance to stop “copying, distributing, performing, or offering to sell” the song.8 Although 10 Day was originally distributed as a free mixtape by Chance himself and has never been formally issued for sale, the mixtape was briefly uploaded to iTunes and Apple Music for profit back in January.9 Despite 10 Day’s prompt removal from the services, Muhammad alleges that Chance “has received profits from marketing, promotion and sale of merchandise, performances, tickets to concerts and other performances as a result of” his use of “Bridge Through Time.”10 Because of this alleged profit, Muhammad is now seeking damages, including any profits arising from the alleged infringement and “destruction or other reasonable disposition” of all copies of the song.11

Muhammad is listed as a writer for the songs “Candy,” a 2007 UGK track off the album Underground Kingz, and “We Roll Deep”, a song by Conscious Daughters, which both sample “Bridge Through Time.”12 Muhammad’s work on “Bridge Through Time” has been sampled by many other notable artists over the years, including Jay-Z, Big K.R.I.T., Tha Dogg Pound, Blu, and Slum Village.13 The eight-page complaint against Chance is available to view here.14

  1. Matthew Strauss, Chance the Rapper Sued for Copyright Infringement, Pitchfork (Sept. 13, 2017), https://pitchfork.com/news/chance-the-rapper-sued-for-copyright-infringement/.
  2. Khari Nixon, Chance The Rapper Faces Lawsuit Over a Sample on His First Mixtape, Mass Appeal (Sept. 13, 2017), https://massappeal.com/chance-the-rapper-lawsuit-lonnie-liston-smith-10-day/?utm_content=buffer60855&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.
  3. Nereida Moreno, Compare the Chance the Rapper track with the song a lawsuit claims he sampled without permission, Chi. Trib. (Sept. 13, 2017), http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/ct-ent-chance-the-rapper-lawsuit-0913-20170912-story.html.
  4. William Hughes, Chance The Rapper is being sued for copyright infringement, AV Club (Sept. 12, 2017, 4:05 PM), https://www.avclub.com/chance-the-rapper-is-being-sued-for-copyright-infringem-1804416801.
  5. Dave Simpson, Chance The Rapper Stole Jazz Sample, Suit Says, Law360 (Sept. 12, 2017, 9:06 PM), https://www.law360.com/articles/963207/chance-the-rapper-stole-jazz-sample-suit-says.
  6. Hughes, supra note 4; see also Simpson, supra note 5.
  7. Moreno, supra note 3.
  8. Id.
  9. Id.
  10. Nixon, supra note 2; Strauss, supra note 1.
  11. Simpson, supra note 5.
  12. The ASCAP Foundation Press, ACE Repertory: Muhammad Abdul-Wali, https://www.ascap.com/repertory#ace/writer/51365793/MUHAMMAD ABDUL-WALI (last visited Oct. 11, 2017).
  13. WhoSampled.com, Bridge Through Time, https://www.whosampled.com/Lonnie-Liston-Smith/Bridge-Through-Time/sampled/ (last visited Oct. 11, 2017).
  14. Courthouse News Service, https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ChanceRapper.pdf (last visited Oct. 11, 2017).
Print Friendly, PDF & Email