"The Hills" is one of The Weeknd's biggest hits, but it's on the verge of becoming a headache. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Canadian pop star and his producers are being sued by film financier Cutting Edge Films for copyright infringement over a sample used in "The Hills" without permission. The sample in question is cut from the soundtrack of The Machine, a 2013 sci-fi film scored by Tom Raybould; the specific track is called "Revolution."
Lawsuits contested over sonic similarity can quickly move into nebulous terrain — just ask Pharrell and Robin Thicke — but Cutting Edge is supplying evidence from an unexpected place: a producer's Twitter DMs. The company's lawsuit alleges that producer Mano (who worked on "The Hills") messaged Raybould on Twitter in March of this year regarding his music and Mano's work with The Weeknd. "I sampled your music might make it 2 the weeknd next album," wrote Mano. "Huge fan of what u did 4 the machine movie!" If the DMs are authentic, that message never translated into any formal credit or compensation.
The "Blurred Lines" case set a scary precedent for samplers and songwriters
The specter of the "Blurred Lines" case mentioned above is going to hang heavy over this lawsuit if it manages to progress much further, and with good reason: it set a scary precedent for samplers and songwriters. (Thicke and Pharrell recently filed an appeal, the start of a process that could take years to resolve.) "Blurred Lines" was dragged into court because Marvin Gaye's family happened to notice a similarity; if the allegations regarding "The Hills" are true, one of the song's producers went ahead and acknowledged he was sampling without actually protecting the song and its creators. In any case, the creative forces behind new music have less reason to talk about their inspiration than ever. If a few notes fall the wrong way and line up with something people know you like, a court date could be around the corner.
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