Beyoncé Sued For $20 Million By The Estate Of Messy Mya Over 'Formation'

The estate of Anthony Barre, better known as Messy Mya, is suing Beyoncé for $20 million, claiming that the superstar lifted portions of Mya’s “Booking the Hoes From New Wildings” and “A 27 Piece Huh.” The suit claims that Beyoncé sampled Mya’s voice and lyrics, including as “What happened at the New Orleans” and “B***h, I’m back by popular demand” for her song “Formation.” The estate states it has ”received nothing…no acknowledgment, no credit no remuneration of any kind” and asserts that they attempted to reach out to Beyoncé and never heard back.

Barre’s estate (primarily Mya’s sister) is suing Queen Bey for royalties, and Sony Music and Jay Z are also named in the suit. Mya’s sister is also seeking proper credit “as a writer, composer, producer and performer” for her brother. New Orleans artist Messy Mya was known for his music and YouTube following before he was tragically murdered in 2010.

Listening to both the “Bookings” and “Formation” videos, it is fairly obvious that Mya’s voice kicks off “Formation,” and it will be hard for Beyoncé and her counsel to refute it. Beyoncé could be in big trouble if a judge determines that Mya’s lyrics and voice were used without permission. If so, Bey’s counsel might try to reach a settlement that includes remuneration and proper credit. Beyoncé might have thought that this was an homage to Mya, but the estate thinks otherwise.

It seems like it would be fairly easy, at a reasonable price, for Beyoncé to clear any Mya samples, so it remains to be seen what her legal position will be. If, as the lawsuit states, Beyoncé used the “voice, performance and words from his copyrighted works to create the tone, mood, setting and location of the New Orleans-themed ‘Formation’ video and audio recordings,” then Beyoncé might hope she had cleared the samples.

Since Beyoncé is sampling Mya’s voice, she might argue fair use, noting that the song is making a “political statement,” although that seems far-fetched. The “Formation” video starts off with images such as a car immersed in water evoking Hurricane Katrina and portrays other Southern (think Nola) settings throughout. ”Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.” Beyoncé has profited greatly from the Grammy-nominated, chart-topping single, even if the video has political undertones, a judge might side with Barre’s Estate if this case goes that far.

Jay Z won his “Big Pimpin’” sampling lawsuit a couple of years ago after an eight-year battle, but his wife’s case does not look promising. If the estate’s allegations against Beyoncé are correct, most legal maxims seem to side with the Barre’s estate.

(Photo by Duane Prokop/Getty Images)

Beyonce ‘sued over Messy Mya sample’ in Formation

Beyoncé is being sued over claims that she used a recorded line from a dead New Orleans rapper for her song 'Formation' without permission, it has been reported.

According to TMZ, the estate of YouTube star Anthony Barre - known as Messy Mya - filed a suit against Beyoncé over her samples of his 2010 video 'A 27 Piece Huh?' in her gold-certified hit song.

Barre's estate claims that Beyoncé took the deceased artist's “I like that” phrase without permission and went onto make millions from the track.

The track also uses Mya's: “What happened after new Orleans?” and “Bitch, I'm back. By popular demand” from his video ”Booking The Hoes From New Wildin" at the very beginning of the song.

Beyoncé and her representatives are accused of ignoring the estate's attempts to communicate with her over the issue.

Mya's estate is seeking “more than $20,000,000 in back royalties and other damages”, TMZ claims.

Sony Music and Jay-Z entities are also named in the suit, according to Forbes.

As well as financial compensation, Mya's sister is seeking proper credit “as a writer, composer, producer and performer” for her brother.

Mya, who was shot and killed in New Orleans in 2010, was known for his viral YouTube videos that mixed bounce music and comedy.

‘Formation’ was previously the subject of copyright controversy in 2016, when filmmakers Abteen Bagheri and Chris Black claimed that they did not give Beyoncé or the video’s director permission to use footage from their documentary That B.E.A.T, a 2013 documentary about Hurricane Katrina.

Bagheri claimed he was asked for approval to use the footage but denied the request.

A representative for Beyoncé told Entertainment Weekly: "The documentary footage was used with permission and licenced from the owner of the footage.

“They were given proper compensation. The footage was provided to us by the filmmaker’s production company. The filmmaker is listed in the credits for additional photography direction.”

Soon after this statement was made Bagheri told the Washington Post: “Anyone who works in the industry knows that putting out a work is a miracle.

“There needs to be a unity amongst directors. We need to preserve the sanctity of the craft and champion individual voices. Our work isn’t just b-roll for someone else. It just shouldn’t be considered, whether or not it’s legal. It’s a bad precedent to set.”

Beyonce faces $20 million copyright lawsuit from New Orleans bounce star Messy Mya's estate

Beyonce is at the center of a $20 million federal lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday (Feb. 7) in New Orleans, claiming the pop star's "Formation" and "Lemonade" music videos used the voice of the late New Orleans bounce rapper Messy Mya without consent from Mya's estate.

The distinctive voice of Messy Mya, whose legal name was Anthony Barre, can be heard in both Beyonce's projects and was imitated while Beyonce was on tour, the suit claims.

Barre's sister and sole heir, Angel Barre, is suing Beyonce, Parkwood Entertainment, Sony, "Formation" director Melina Mastoukas and a co-producer, marketer and publishers of "Formation" and "Lemonade." Angel Barre's lawyers have asked for $20 million in damages for "willful copyright infringement, false endorsement, unfair trade practices and unjust enrichments," according to the lawsuit. 

"Formation" first popped into headlines with its surprise release Feb. 6, 2016, and especially resonated with New Orleans residents as it showed Beyonce performing around the city. It featured the star surrounded by imagery from the city, like Mardi Gras Indians and a local plantation home. In one of its final scenes, she appeared atop a New Orleans Police Department car sinking in floodwater.

Also of interest to New Orleans music fans: The video featured samples from the voices of bounce stars Messy Mya and Big Freedia. Messy Mya was shot and killed Nov. 14, 2010, near St. Anthony and North Rocheblave streets.

As The Times-Picayune crime reporter Michelle Hunter recapped at the release of the "Formation" video, Messy Mya was 22 when he was gunned down leaving a baby shower for his unborn son.

Beyonce's video was later followed up by a performance at the Super Bowl, a longer music film -- "Lemonade" -- and a full world tour.

Attorneys for Angel Barre further claimed in the lawsuit that Beyonce used Messy Mya's "voice, performance and words from his copyrighted works to create the tone, mood, setting and location of" Beyonce's videos. Specifically at issue are phrases from Messy Mya's songs "Booking the Hoes from New Wildlings" and "A 27 Piece Huh?," including:
  • Messy Mya's voice saying "What happened at the New Orleans?" and "B---- I'm back by popular demand" in the openings for both the audio and video recordings of "Formation." Later in Beyonce's song and video, Messy Mya's voice can be heard saying "Oh yeah baby. I like that."
  •  During the Formation World Tour, Messy Mya's voice was heard saying "Oh yeah baby, I like that," when Beyonce "and the other performers move from one area of the stage to another" about four minutes into the show, the suit said.
  •  Messy Mya's words, "B---- I'm back by popular demand" were imitated by Big Freedia during the opening to performances of the Formation World Tour in New Orleans and Houston. In other cities on the tour, the words were imitated by male performers.
The lawsuit claimed Angel Barre attempted to reach out to the singer's representatives in October 2016 to secure proper licensing, but they didn't agree to any terms.

"(Messy Mya's) estate has received nothing -- no acknowledgement, no credit, no remuneration of any kind," the lawsuit reads.

In substantiating the $20 million in damages claimed by Barre's attorneys, the lawsuit said the proper crediting for Messy Mya would "not have only generated substantial revenues, but it would have generated international recognition for Anthony Barre's performance works and as a contributor to a worldwide hit song."

When Angel Barre first heard Beyonce's "Formation," she was "really excited, thrilled, in fact," according to Glenda McKinley, a spokeswoman for Rodney & Etter LLC, the law firm representing Messy Mya's estate.

"It was overwhelming to hear his voice on one of the biggest stages ever," McKinley said of Angel Barre's experience. But eventually Barre realized her brother's work wasn't properly credited, she said, which is when she hired lawyers to reach out for recognition of Messy Mya's contributions to Beyonce's work.

"Clearly, they didn't have much of an option," McKinley said.

The Times-Picayune has reached out to a representative for Parkwood Entertainment and will update with any response. 

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