Beyonce‘s 2016 music video for “Formation” and her extended Lemonade visual album are at the center of a $20 million lawsuit, filed in the New Orleans federal court this week. According to the lawsuit, the songs are subject to copyright infringement for using samples of late New Orleans bounce and YouTube star, Messy Mya, without consent from the artist’s estate. Messy Mya, aka Anthony Barre, was murdered in 2010 at the age of 22. He was shot to death leaving the baby shower of his first child.
Released ahead of the 2016 Super Bowl and then performed at the Halftime Show, “Formation” features samples of Messy Mya’s voice. According to The Times-Picayune, these samples include lines like “What happened at the New Orleans?” and “Bitch, I’m back by popular demand.”
The lawsuit was filed by Barre’s sister and sole heir to his estate, Angel, according to NOLA.com. It claims that the music videos for “Formation” and “Lemonade” had “willful copyright infringement, false endorsement, unfair trade practices and unjust enrichments.” Those named in the lawsuit include Beyonce, Parkwood Entertainment, Sony, music video director Melina Mastoukas, and a number of producers and publishers involved in both “Formation” and Lemonade.
According to Barre, the estate reached out to Beyonce’s team over the licensing terms back in October of 2016, but nothing came of it. The suit claims that the “estate has received nothing — no acknowledgement, no credit, no remuneration of any kind.” It goes on to point out that if terms had been agreed upon, the samples could’ve led to “substantial revenues, [and] it would have generated international recognition for Anthony Barre’s performance works and as a contributor to a worldwide hit song.”
Glenda McKinley, a spokesperson for Barre’s legal team, told The Times-Picayune that the sister of the late performer was at first, “really excited, thrilled, in fact,” when she heard her brother’s voice in “Formation.”
“It was overwhelming to hear his voice on one of the biggest stages ever,” McKinley revealed. But since the work wasn’t properly credited, she sought legal counsel. “Clearly, they didn’t have much of an option,” McKinley said.
Fans were also surprised to hear Messy Mya, and fellow New Orleans bounce icon Big Freedia, in the Beyonce song. Here are some Twitter reactions:
Speaking of Twitter reactions, Beyonce fans are pointing out that Messy Mya was indeed credited in the music video. Check out the evidence here:
Stay tuned for more updates on this legal matter.