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Beyonce Loses Bid to Have ‘Formation’ Copyright Claim Tossed

Singer was sued by estate of deceased New Orleans rapper in February

Better keep those lawyers in formation, Beyonce.

The “Single Ladies” singer has lost a bid to have a lawsuit over her song “Formation” dismissed, with a federal judge in Louisiana mostly denying the singer’s motion to dismiss in an order handed down Wednesday.

Beyonce was sued in February for $20 million by the estate of Anthony Barre, a.k.a. rapper Messy Mya. The estate claims that “Formation” used Barre’s voice without authorization.

“Defendants used Mr. Barre’s voice, performance and words from his copyrighted works to create the tone, mood, setting and location of the New Orleans-themed ‘Formation,'” the lawsuit reads.

New Orleans-based Barre was shot and killed in 2010.

Beyonce’s team filed a motion to dismiss under numerous arguments, including a multi-pronged assertion that the use of the audio, culled from YouTube videos, fell under the fair use doctrine.

However, Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown shot down that assertion in her order this week, writing in part, “Here, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts in their amended complaint to support a finding at this stage of litigation that the first factor could ultimately weigh against a finding of fair use.

“Plaintiffs plausibly allege that Defendants did not ‘add something new, with a further purpose or different character,’ but rather used unmodified audio clips from Anthony Barre’s YouTube videos as an illustrative example of New Orleans culture through the voice and catchphrases of a well-known local icon.”

The small glimmer of light for Beyonce? The judge did agree to dismiss an unjust enrichment claim brought by Barre’s estate, finding that “there are other remedies available at law to Plaintiffs such that Louisiana law precludes an unjust enrichment claim here.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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