Madonna wins ‘Vogue’ copyright case


Madonna has won a copyright case which involved one of her best known songs. Despite borrowing elements of The Sasoul Orchestra’s track ‘Love Break’ a court has ruled that it did not breach copyright.

The classic song contains a sample of a trumpet that is 0:23 seconds long, but the US 9th circuit court decision has declared that the short sample does not count as a breach of copyright.

The SaSoul Orchestra brought the case against the singer and her collaboraters back in 2012 and a judge ruled that a discernible listener would not be able to pick up or recognise the super short sample.

The case was taken to appeal but the judges have still ruled in Madonna’s favour. One of three judges disagreed with the decision. Dissenting Judge Barry Silverman wrote, “In any other context, this would be called theft.”

The ruling contradicts an earlier ruling made in the US 6th circuit court. Back in 2005 gangsta-rap band NWA were found to have infringed the copyright of ’70s funk band Funkadelic when they lifted a short sample from the song ‘Get Off Your Ass and Jam’.

NWA took two seconds of a guitar code from the Funkadelic tune, lowered its pitch and looped it five times. The sample was used in their 1990 track ‘100 Miles and Runnin”.

The decision in the “Vogue’ case means Madonna alongside writer/producer Shep Pettibone and her former record company Warner Bros can breathe a sigh of relief as they won’t have to back pay royalties to the respected disco group Sasoul Orchestra.

Shep Pettibone, who wrote the track for Madonna, was also the producer of the original track that the sample was lifted from.

The trumpet grab from ‘Love Break’ is not the only sample in ‘Vogue’, it also features the bass line from the MSFB tune ‘Love is the Message’.

Madonna and Shep Pettibone originally wrote the track as a b-side to add to Madonna’s song ‘Keep it Together’. The Sly and the Family Stone inspired funk tune was scheduled to be the fifth single from the singer’s highly successful ‘Like a Prayer’ album.

Pettibone had previously remixed many of Madonna’s songs but ‘Vogue’ was the first time the pair worked together on a new track. Pettibone created the music for the track and two weeks later Madonna flew to New York to record the vocals.

When the executives at Warner Bros heard the tune it was declared too good to be a b-side and plans were hatched to release it as a single in its own right. The tune was included on Madonna’s ‘I’m Breathless’ album which tied in with her role in the movie ‘Dick Tracy’.

The song was the best selling tune of 1990, and the court’s decision comes 26 years after the tune was at the top of the charts. Here is Australia it held the number one spot for five consecutive weeks.

Last year Pettibone gave a rare interview to Billboard magazine where he talked about the making of Vogue revealing that the whole track was made with a meager budget of $5,000.

The producer continued working with Madonna, the pair collaborated on her Erotica album and he wrote ‘Rescue Me’ from her Immaculate Collection compilation and the ballad ‘This Used to be My Playground’ from the film ‘With Honors’.

Pettibone also produced tracks some great tracks with Paul Lekakis, Cathy Dennis and Taylor Dayne, and provided remixes for New Order, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Duran Duran.

OIP Staff





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