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Late last year, Madonna made headlines when she went after embattled rapper Tory Lanez for what she felt was unauthorized usage of her 1985 hit “Into the Groove” in his song “Pluto’s Last Comet.”

“Read your messages tor [sic] illegal usage of my song Get into The Groove!” she wrote on Instagram, later adding in a comment to Rolling Stone, “I am tired of being taken advantage of and I mean business.”

Now, another iconic name from the 1980s is speaking out against Lanez: the George Michael estate, who have taken action to get a different song (“Enchanted Waterfall”) from Lanez’s ‘80s-inspired fall 2021 album, “Alone at Prom,” yanked from Spotify. They claim it lifts from Michael’s 1985 hit “Careless Whisper,” which the singer wrote with Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley.

“It was brought to our attention that the song ‘Enchanted Waterfall’ by the artist Tory Lanez incorporated an unauthorized sample of ‘Careless Whisper’ written by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley….requested permission for this use had been declined in June 2021 so we took immediate action on behalf of the writers, in collaboration with our publishers Warner Chappell Music, to prevent further exploitation as we will not tolerate any unauthorized use of any songs within the catalogues of George Michael and/or Andrew Ridgeley,” a statement released to Variety on behalf of the George Michael estate and Ridgeley says.

A publicist for Tory Lanez did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment. Michael’s estate extended its long-term global publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music late last year.

It appears that Lanez decided to release “Enchanted Waterfall” with the sample despite the estate’s objections. The track was taken down from Spotify earlier this year; however, at the time of this article’s publication, it remains on Apple Music and YouTube.


 

The 1980s-inspired tune follows a wave of copyright complaints from songwriters as the decade continues to serve up fresh inspiration for a current crop of R&B, electronic and pop stars.

One songwriter who considered taking legal action but ultimately decided against it is Holly Knight, a co-writer of Pat Benatar’s 1983 smash “Love Is a Battlefield,” which many say was an inspiration for David Guetta and Sia’s late 2020 release, “Let’s Love.”

“There is a difference between right and wrong, and the law…I mean there is a lot [songwriters and producers] can get away with before it’s copyright infringement,” Knight explains to Variety.

“I have my team of lawyers and I usually get talked out of lawsuits, because you know, its gonna cost you more money and you probably won’t win. That doesn’t mean it’s right, it’s just, the law,” she adds.

Knight says she ultimately decided not to take action because Guetta’s track was right on the line dividing what’s considered an “homage” to a song and direct copyright infringement. Ultimately, she felt the song more closely took inspiration from certain production elements of “Love Is a Battlefield,” as opposed to lifting direct melodies or lyrics.

“When I first heard the song, two seconds in, it’s like oh — ‘Love Is a Battlefield’: the drums, the beats, the stops, the punctuation of the bassline,” she says. “But that being said, if I were to analyze it and put myself outside the mix [as an observer], the melody is different, the lyrics are different and the chords aren’t the same. I started getting fired up [regarding a possible lawsuit] after reading all the YouTube comments and then I was wondering if it is influence, or is it plagiarism?”

However, she notes, the offending segments of the song also aren’t part of her creation as songwriter. “When I wrote the song initially, our demo was different and a little bit slower than Pat Benetar’s version, and I didn’t produce the record,” she continues, citing another reason why she and her team ultimately decided they would not take any action against “Let’s Love.”

Lanez’s “Enchanted Waterfall” also appears to toe the “homage” line. However, the Michael estate is fiercely protective of the late singer’s copyrights: They, along with Warner Chappell, similarly moved to strike rapper Yung Gravy’s track “Flex Season” (which also sampled “Careless Whisper”) from Spotify in 2020.

In other Lanez legal matters, the next hearing in his trial over the July 2020 incident in which Megan Thee Stallion claims he shot her in the feet is scheduled for April 5.