A legal dispute between Chris Brown and his label over claims that the musician plagiarised a prior song that it publishes on his 2017 single “Privacy” has been resolved by the UK-based music company Greensleeves.
Greensleeves claimed in a lawsuit submitted to the New York courts in July 2021 that Red Rat’s 1997 dancehall song “Tight Up Skirt” was the source of a lyric from Greensleeves’ song “Privacy.” The lawsuit claimed that “[Brown] grabbed the essential musical element of ‘Tight Up Skirt’ and prominently utilised it in the infringing work without authorization.”
According to the lawsuit, “‘Tight Up Skirt’ and the infringing work share a comparable principal distinguishing feature,” which is what they meant by the “fundamental musical component.” Hey Your Girl in a Tight Upskirt and Hey You Girl Without a Tight Upskirt are the lyrics to this melody, which appears in both songs.
It said, “This similar tune opens each chorus portion in both songs. This major common structural placement emphasises how similar the melodies in the two songs are, which is important.
Prior to the lawsuit being filed, it had been noticed frequently that both tunes featured that element; nevertheless, Red Rat, who was not a party to the litigation, appeared to be unconcerned about it all.
“Chris Brown, who is one of the biggest pop musicians in the world, feeling the need to sample a portion of ‘Tight Up Skirt’ simply shows how much he loves and appreciates Red Rat and [the] catalogue,” he said in a 2017 interview with the Jamaica Observer. It also demonstrates how devoted he is to the music.
When questioned about the Greensleeves litigation, the producer of the original song, Andrew Bradford, questioned whether the publisher even held the rights to the previous tune.
In the past, studio producers in Jamaica served in a similar capacity to labels in securing the rights to the music they created. Even though they frequently licenced the rights to companies like VP Records and Greensleeves, who eventually amalgamated, in the past.
In that case, Greensleeves would have published “Tight Up Skirt.” Although Bradford stated that he would review his previous contracts to see if the rights were still present. Because Bradford and Red Rat likely would have loved to split the money if Greensleeves had received the $1.5 million or more in damages it was seeking in its lawsuit.
For their part, Brown’s legal counsel claimed that because the features shared by “Privacy” and “Tight Up Skirt” were brief and typical, they were not individually protected by copyright and that, in any case, Brown’s use of those elements qualified as fair use under US copyright law.
The two sides in the disagreement reportedly wrote a letter to the court earlier this week informing the judge that they “had achieved a settlement in principle, which entirely resolves the subject,” so we’ll never know if those arguments would have held up in court.
There are no recorded details concerning that settlement. Red Rat, Bradford, nor any of the parties to the litigation have spoken out about the transaction yet.