Oops!… She Moaned Again: Copyright Complaint Filed Against Sony Music, Britney Spears, and Others

Everyone wants a piece of Britney Spears. At least that’s how it appears in a recently filed complaint against the pop star’s record label, Sony Music Entertainment, its subsidiary RCA Records, and the label imprint Zomba Recording. The lawsuit alleges two claims of copyright infringement, one for the 2007 Britney Spears track “Piece of Me” and a second for Travis Porter’s “Ayy Ladies (feat. Tyga)” released on his 2012 debut album by RCA Records.

Who exactly is bringing this copyright claim and why?

Cover from the 'Ayy Ladies' single.
Cover from the ‘Ayy Ladies’ single.

Kirk Rothrum owns and operates a stock music licensing website, Bangin-Beats.com, which he launched in 2000. The website provides anyone the opportunity to purchase and download pre-made hip-hop beat samples, drum loops, and other sound effect elements that can be incorporated into a song. Rothrum drops names in the complaint and on his website (a whole page is dedicated to clients) of industry-leading producers and artists that have used his services. The complaint explains that the “Bangin’ Beats Sound Design Library,” which allegedly contained the tracks at issue in this lawsuit, was first published in August 2007 and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office shortly afterward in November 2007. The package appears to no longer be available for purchase through the website. Rothrum describes the sounds, available in the “Oodlez” series, as “a woman seductively moaning and voicing the phrases ‘uhh’  ‘uhh’, ‘oooh’ and ‘oh yeah.’”

Random side note: the complaint categorizes the uses on the “Piece of Me” song as the “Britney Phrases” and on the “Ayy Ladies” song as “Ayy Ladies Phrases.”

As stated in the website’s Terms of Use (which also govern any purchases), the purchaser is granted a commercial “limited, non-exclusive, non-transferrable royalty free license” to use the files. The non-exclusivity means that the purchaser isn’t the only person being given a license from Rothrum to use these sounds (also read as: ‘don’t expect any of these sounds to not be heard in other songs’). Because the license is non-transferrable, the only person allowed to use the downloaded files is the producer or music creator purchasing the track.

Rothrum has filed a lawsuit because of the belief that no one officially purchased the tracks or otherwise obtained permissions to use the tracks in both the Spears and Porter songs. As such, he is claiming the infringement extends to all copies sold across the traditional digital and physical album and single sales, as well as in ringtones, tour revenues, and more.

What’s Next?

Britney Spears recently extended her residency in Las Vegas, the aptly named “Piece of Me” show.

Rothrum is seeking an accounting of all revenues that have been earned from the distribution, use and performance of these two songs, which will then be used in the calculation of actual damages. Alternatively, Rothrum is seeking statutory damages. The usual pre-judgment interest and attorneys’ fees and costs are included, too.

The next steps could include more filings, gathering of evidence as to whether these samples were ever purchased, discussions, negotiations and more. We’ll have to wait until more documents are filed or either party discusses openly about the matter.

Download a copy of the full complaint. No claim to the images used.