Music

Reggaeton Under Fire: Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi, Karol G Sued For Copyright Infringement

The entire reggaeton genre is being put into question amid a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Jamaican dancehall production house Steely & Clevie Productions.

First, it may have all started with Steely & Clevie’s 1989 “Fish Market” riddim

The former production duo included current producer Cleveland Browne, and Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson, who sadly passed away in 2009. Further, the two joined forces to create their “Fish Market” riddim in 1989. After its use in Shabba Ranks’ “Dem Bow,” the production house alleges that more than 30 names, including Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi have profited off their original track.

As reported by Dancehall Mag, the lawsuit started off as a copyright infringement suit specifically against Luis Fonsi. Filed in October 2021, it alleged that Fonsi’s chart-topping songs “Despacito,” “Date La Vuelta,” “Imposible,” “Bésame,” “Échame La Culpa,” “Perfecta,” “Calypso,” “Sola,” and “Vacio” all used the “Fish Market” riddim. Consequently, it seems to also include the “Despacito” remix.

Moreover, the suit focuses on the rhythm section found in “Despacito,” which it says copies the rhythm section in “Fish Market.”

As per the lawsuit, the rhythm section includes “an original drum pattern” with a specific combination of a kick, snare, and hi hat with a tambourine playing throughout. The suit states, “The musical backbone of ‘Despacito’ and the ‘Despacito Remix’ are substantially similar if not virtually identical to a significant portion of ‘Fish Market.'”

Meanwhile, Fonsi’s lawyers denied that “all or any portion” of “Fish Market” is “original or protectible” at all. Meaning, “no response is required” from them. So anything allegedly “copied” by them doesn’t warrant protection anyway. Hm.

The copyright infringement lawsuit has since expanded

Fast-forward to this week, and things are getting even more complicated. Steely & Clevie Productions’ lawsuit expanded to include more than 30 names in the music business, with the plaintiffs alleging all of them profited off of “Fish Market.”

The consolidated lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Central District of California. The plaintiffs include Cleveland Constantine Browne, Wycliffe Johnson’s representative Anika Johnson, and Steely and Clevie Productions Limited.

So how about the defendants? Well, that’s a whole other story, and it’s seemingly bringing the entire reggaeton genre under fire. Court documents divide the accused into three categories: El Chombo, Luis Fonsi, and Daddy Yankee.

All about the three categories within the lawsuit

For one, the plaintiffs are suing Panamanian reggaetonero El Chombo for his alleged use of “Fish Market” in his hit “Dame Tu Cosita.”

Other names sued for their involvement include Karol G, Sony Music, Afro Bros, Juston Records, and Ultra Music.

Next, the consolidated “Fish Market” lawsuit still includes Luis Fonsi, pointing to ten of his most famous songs. Consequently, the entities involved with these ten tracks also come up in the suit. These include some of the biggest names in the reggaeton genre, including Myke Towers, Ozuna, Nicky Jam, Sebastián Yatra, Farruko, Rauw Alejandro, and even Justin Bieber. It also hits companies like Universal Music and Sony Music.

Lastly, Daddy Yankee makes up the final accused group, with (drum roll, please) over 40 songs included in the lawsuit. All the underlined songs allegedly used the “Fish Market” riddim copyright, including chart-toppers like “Rompe,” “Dura,” “Gasolina” and “Hula Hoop.”

Meanwhile, Yankee’s many collaborators like Anuel AA, Yandel, Sech, Tainy, Ozuna, and Wisin are also named in the suit.

The plaintiffs explained in the lawsuit that they “believe and now allege that Defendants knowingly induced, participated in, aided and abetted in and profited from the illegal reproduction, distribution, and publication” of the infringing works.

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