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Lil Nas X Takes His Horse to the Old Town Road and Moves to Dismiss Producers’ Copyright Infringement Action Concerning “Rodeo”

Posted in Copyright Law, IP

Lil Nas X broke onto the scene in spectacular fashion when he released the viral sensation “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. Old Town Road broke the prior record for most consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and eventually resulted in Lil Nas X receiving a Grammy award. Unfortunately, fortune and fame comes with its share of problems.

Lil Nas X was sued by producers Don Lee and Glen Keith (the “Producers”) in October 2019 for allegedly infringing their copyrighted material with his track “Rodeo.” According to the Producers, Rodeo bears a substantial similarity to their 2017 song “GwenXdonlee4-142[,]” which was subsequently incorporated into a song called “Broad Day” by PuertoReefa and Sakrite Duexe. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that there are substantial similarities between the chord progression, use of instruments, drumbeats, and other protectable characteristics from “GwenXdonlee4-142” and “Broad Day.” According to the Producers, the song was widely distributed in locations including Lil Nas X’s

Lil Nas X’s legal team responded to the lawsuit last week by filing a motion to dismiss. In the motion, Lil Nas X’s attorneys argue that Rodeo was created independently of Broad Day and without knowledge of the allegedly infringed work. Moreover, Lil Nas X’s team argued, without admitting use of copyrighted material, that the conduct of which the Producers complain was pursuant to an implied or express license.

Given that Lil Nas X’s motion was only filed last week, the Producers have yet to file an opposition. However, Pitchfork, the self-proclaimed most trusted voice in music, reached out to the Producers’ attorneys, who stated, generally, that the filing fails to dispute or rebut the Producers’ claim for copyright infringement, and that the Producers look forward to their day in court. Of course, he wasn’t going to respond that the motion disproves the Producer’s theories of liability and raises issues dispositive to their case. Nonetheless, we will see how the Court feels about the motion and whether it presents a meritorious defense to the case.