On February 24, 2020, Yeasayer, a former Brooklyn-based rock band, filed a lawsuit against Kendrick Lamar and the Weeknd, among others, for Copyright Infringement. Yeasayer is alleging that Kendrick Lamar And the Weeknd’s 2018 collaboration “Pray for Me” infringes Yeasayer’s copyright on the 2007 song called “Sunrise.” “Pray for Me” appeared on the soundtrack album of the Marvel Studios superhero film Black Panther and has a 2x Platinum Certification according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
Yeasayer specifically stated in their complaint that:
17. “Sunrise” includes the recording of a distinctive choral performance, which Plaintiffs created and recorded using their own voices. This material was specifically created for use in “Sunrise” and is unique, comprised of male voices singing in their highest registers, with animated, pulsing vibrato, and developed via distinctive audio post-processing.
20. Defendants extracted Plaintiffs’ choral performance from a recording of “Sunrise,” slightly modified it, including, on information and belief, via postprocessing to alter its pitch, among other qualities, and then inserted the modified audio material into “Pray for Me.” The material copied from “Sunrise” is a material and substantial portion of “Pray for Me.”
22. Despite the processing, Defendants’ use of Plaintiffs’ song nonetheless retains each of its inherent characteristics, as well as the relation between those characteristics, and is immediately recognizable as Plaintiffs’ material.YEASAYER, LLC, a New York Limited Liability Company; WE ARE FREE, LLC, a New York Limited Liability Company, Plaintiffs, v. ABEL MAKKONEN TESFAYE a/k/a THE WEEKND, an individual; KENDRICK LAMAR DUCKWORTH, an individual; DOC MCKINNEY, an individual; ADAM KING FEENEY, an individual; UMG RECORDINGS, INC., a Delaware Corporation, individually and doing business as INTERSCOPE RECORDS and AFTERMATH RECORDS; TOP DAWG ENTERTAINMENT, INC., a California Corporation; and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.
Case 1:20-cv-01608 Document 1 Filed 02/24/20 Page 4 of 14
Based on the song’s popularity, this could be a high value lawsuit. It will be interesting to see whether Yeasayer can convince a jury that the defendants had access to Yeasayer’s copyrighted work and that “Pray for Me” is substantially similar to “Sunrise.” You can always listen to “Sunrise” and “Pray for Me” on YouTube and decided for yourself if the works are substantially similar.