Greensleeves, a music company based in the United Kingdom, has filed a lawsuit in New York claiming that Chris Brown’s 2017 single “Privacy” infringed upon “Tight Up Skirt,” a dancehall track recorded by Red Rat in 1997 and published by Greensleeves. According to the lawsuit, which names both Brown and his record label Sony Music as defendants, Brown “wrote, performed and recorded a musical work entitled ‘Privacy,’ the infringing work. In creating the infringing work, [Brown] took the core musical feature of ‘Tight Up Skirt’ and used it prominently in the infringing work without permission.” The lawsuit identifies the “core musical feature” as a melody that contains the lyrics “hey your girl inna di tight upskirt” and “hey you girl without a tight upskirt,” respectively. The similar melody starts each chorus in both of the songs, which represents a significant structural placement that “adds to the prominence of the similar melody in both songs.”
Red Rat himself noted the similarity in 2017, telling the Jamaica Observer that he had received many calls from people asking him what he thought about Brown sampling “Tight Up Skirt.” His reaction at that time suggests that he did not have a problem with Brown using the lyric, and neither Red Rat nor Andrew Bradford, the original producer of the track, is not mentioned in the lawsuit filed by Greensleeves. In 2017, Red Rat said the fact that Chris Brown, who is an international music star, felt he needed to sample the 1997 song “only shows how much he loves and respects Red Rat and [the] catalog. It also shows how much of a fan he is to the music.”
Bradford told DancehallMag that he had licensed the song to VP Records and Greensleeves prior to their merger when they were two separate companies. It was a common practice in the Jamaican music industry at the time for studio producers to serve as the label and sign the rights to music they produced so they could distribute recordings in the United States and Europe. Bradford said that as far as he knows producers in the 1990s didn’t license exclusively to the two firms. He intends to consult a lawyer about the contracts, however.
Greensleeves is seeking damages totaling $1.5 million from Brown and Sony Music.
In addition to the Greensleeves suit, Brown is also facing a lawsuit filed by his former housekeeper concerning allegations that she was attacked by his dog while working at the artist’s home in California in December of 2020.
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