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Macklemore and Ryan awarded legal costs in “objectively baseless” copyright case

By | Published on Thursday 24 October 2019

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

A US court has ordered jazz artist Paul Batiste to pay $125,000 to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to cover their legal costs in relation to a copyright dispute over their hit ‘Thrift Shop’.

Batiste sued Macklemore and Lewis in 2017 claiming that their track stole beats and horn melodies from his songs ‘Hip Jazz’ and ‘World Of Blues’, which date from 1997 and 2000 respectively. He also made similar allegations over another of the duo’s tracks from the same album, ‘Neon Cathedral’.

Earlier this year the court dismissed the case, with the judge concluding that there was no evidence Macklemore and Lewis had ever heard Batiste’s songs, and that “after performing a listening comparison of each of Mr Batiste’s songs and the work that allegedly infringes it, and aided by the guidance of the defendants’ expert musicologists, the court finds that the plaintiff has failed to demonstrate ‘striking similarity’ or any instances of sampling”.

While Batiste got about appealing that ruling, lawyers for Macklemore and Lewis went back to court arguing that the plaintiff should be forced to contribute towards their clients’ legal costs on the basis that his case was both super weak and badly litigated.

According to Law360, said lawyers argued that: “Defendants are seeking only a fraction of the fees and expenses they incurred and submit that such relief is warranted because plaintiff’s claims were objectively baseless and unreasonable from the outset, and both plaintiff and his counsel engaged in egregious misconduct”.

In response, Batiste disputed that his case was “objectively baseless”, while also pointing out that he was appealing the original ruling, so the copyright dispute was not yet over.

However, this week the judge hearing the case endorsed an earlier recommendation by a magistrate judge that accepted most of Macklemore and Lewis’s arguments. With that in mind, the duo were awarded costs of just over $125,000, about $25,000 less than they had requested.

A legal rep for Macklemore and Lewis welcomed the decision, telling Law360 that clients like his “seem to be fair game these days for these kinds of lawsuits. The recognition that this was a totally baseless claim was a significant factor in the judge awarding us attorney fees essentially in the amount we asked for”.