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Post Malone’s Circles authorship legal battle to go to trial

By | Published on Wednesday 20 April 2022

Post Malone

The legal battle over the authorship and ownership of Post Malone’s ‘Circles’ is heading to trial after the rapper failed to get a lawsuit filed by a former collaborator completely dismissed. Although the dispute that will be heard in court will actually consider the authorship and ownership of an earlier composition which subsequently morphed into ‘Circles’.

Malone is being sued by Tyler Armes – a songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and member of Canadian rap-rock outfit Down With Webster – who joined the rapper and producer Frank Dukes for an all-night jamming session in August 2018. He claims that during that session he contributed to the song that become ‘Circles’.

Although – according to Armes – Malone’s manager initially offered him a 5% split of the copyright in the song after conceding that the musician had indeed co-written the hit, when Armes pushed for a better deal Malone’s team backtracked. With no credit on or share in the song, Armes then went legal through the US courts.

As the litigation has gone through the motions, Malone hasn’t denied that the 2018 jamming session happened, but has sought to play down the role Armes played at that session and subsequently in the creation of ‘Circles’.

Seeking to get the case dismissed entirely, his legal team argued that Armes mainly contributed a generic chord pattern which is not protected by copyright in isolation, and that he didn’t have any ‘superintendence’ or ‘control’ over the creation of ‘Circle’, so couldn’t be considered a co-author of the song.

The judge overseeing the case has declined to dismiss Armes’ lawsuit outright, but did conclude on summary judgement that Armes was not a co-author of the final work that is ‘Circles’. However, the judge added, he might be a co-author of a separate composition that was creating during the 2018 jamming session, and of which ‘Circles’ might be a derivative work.

If both those things can be proven at trial, Armes would have a case for sharing in the monies generated by Malone’s hit.

A similar debate occurred in the dispute over the creation and ownership of Lizzo track ‘Truth Hurts’, in which three former collaborators were seeking a cut of the copyright in that hit on the basis it borrowed elements from an earlier unreleased song they had worked on.

That resulted in a debate on whether the former collaborators had a claim over ‘Truth Hurts’ because it was a derivative work of the earlier song they had been involved in – or whether work on the early song could be considered part of the creative process involved in writing ‘Truth Hurts’.

In court, Lizzo was keen to play down the involvement of those collaborators in the key element of the earlier song that popped up in ‘Truth Hurts’, and in the main her team won most of the legal arguments in court. However, the dispute was then settled out of court last month.