Truth Hurts, and the lawsuit her record label has been slapped with can’t feel too good, either.
An Indian film and music company is suing Interscope Records and its parent company, Universal Music Group, to the tune of more than $500 million over the use of an unlicensed sample on “Addictive,” the first single from Truth Hurts’ debut LP, Truthfully Speaking.
A lawyer retained by Calcutta’s Saregama India Limited filed a copyright infringement lawsuit — which also names as defendants the album’s producer, Dr. Dre, and his Aftermath Records imprint — in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, on September 12.
“Addictive” uses a sample of the 20-year-old song “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai” by the popular Indian artist Lata Mangeshkar without permission from copyright holder Saregama India Ltd., attorney Dedra S. Davis claims. Not only was a snippet of Mangeshkar’s soaring vocals borrowed, but the hook, melody and rhythm were also lifted, Davis alleges.
“When you hear it, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, they didn’t even try to get original with it,’ ” she said. “[They didn't] try to change it up or anything like that.”
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for November 22. Saregama India Ltd. has a British subsidiary branch within the court’s jurisdiction in Texas, which is why the case is being heard in Houston.
Davis said she issued Universal Music Group a cease-and-desist letter prior to filing the suit, which the label conglomerate ignored. Additionally, Seregama India Ltd.’s copyright manager asked UMG to stop using the sample because the lyrics of “Addictive,” in which rapper Rakim drops the F-bomb in his rhymes and Truth sings the lines “I like it rough” and “He makes me scream,” were potentially offensive to some Indians’ cultural and religious sensibilities. The letter only serves as evidence that UMG was made aware of Seregama India’s claim as copyright holders of the song, and the objectionable content doesn’t factor into the lawsuit.
Coincidentally, UMG’s foreign subsidiary Universal India sought and was granted permission to license the song for an unrelated use as a cover 12 days before Truthfully Speaking was released June 26, furthering the suit’s claim that “the defendants clearly and admittedly knew their activities were, and currently are, infringing on [Seragama's] copyrighted work.”
A Universal Music Group spokesperson had no comment on the matter.
The 90-year-old production and distribution company is seeking monetary damages based on profits from the sale of Truthfully Speaking, the single “Addictive,” attorney’s fees and punitive damages amounting to $500 million. Truthfully Speaking has sold more than 273,000 copies, according to SoundScan.
The complaint states that “the defendants’ infringing conduct has also caused, and is causing, substantial and irreparable injury and damage to [Saregama] in an amount not capable of determination, and, unless restrained, will cause further irreparable injury, leaving the plaintiffs with no adequate remedy at law.”
DJ Quik, who produced “Addictive,” said he stumbled upon the track one night on television.
“I woke up one morning, … I turned on the TV and landed on this Hindi channel and just turned it up real loud,” Quik explained this past summer. “There was a commercial on, and I just got up and went into the bathroom and started brushing my teeth. I’m brushing, and before I knew it, I was grooving. … [The beat on the TV] was just in my body. I went back in there and looked at the TV — there was a girl on there bellydancing, just like real fly. So I pushed record on the VCR.”
— Joe D’Angelo, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway