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Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” Is At The Center Of A Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Directed At Universal Music Publishing Group

As reported by MusicBusinessWorldwide, Mary J. Blige's iconic 1992 hit "Real Love" is at the heart of a newly filed copyright infringement lawsuit against Universal Music Group's publishing arm. The suit, filed by Rightsholder TufAmerica Inc., alleges that the composition behind Blige's breakout track contains an uncredited sample of "Impeach the President," a funk song recorded by The Honey Drippers in 1972.

In a complaint filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday (April 4), TufAmerica alleges that it had repeatedly advised UMG of the presence of the sample, only to be met with a refusal to engage in negotiations.

"Defendant's refusal to cooperate with plaintiff is difficult to reconcile with the fact that plaintiff reached an agreement with UMG Recordings, Inc. with respect to the presence of the uncleared sample from Impeach the President on the master sound recording of Real Love," the complaint states.

TufAmerica contends that both the recording and the underlying composition of "Real Love" contain the sample from "Impeach the President." The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount in "actual damages plus... profits from infringement," as well as court costs and other expenses incurred in pursuing the legal action.

"Real Love" is a seminal track in Blige's discography, serving as her first top 10 Billboard hit and earning a spot on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Best Songs of All Time." The song's sample of "Impeach the President" is particularly noteworthy, given the track's widespread use in the hip-hop community over the decades.

The Honey Drippers' "Impeach the President" has been sampled numerous times by high-profile artists, including Public Enemy, LL Cool J, De La Soul, Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, and Biggie Smalls.

TufAmerica, which describes itself as a company that owns and administers "copyrights [on] tens of thousands of musical recordings and compositions from the genres of Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Hip-Hop, New Orleans and Latin Music," has a history of filing copyright infringement lawsuits against prominent musical acts.

In 2012, the company sued Kanye West (Yé), alleging that his album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" sampled Eddie Bo's 1969 track "Hook and Sling Part One" without authorization. The case was settled out of court. TufAmerica has also filed lawsuits against Jay-Z and The Beastie Boys, alleging copyright infringement related to the sampling of "Hook and Sling Part One" and Trouble Funk's funk track "Let's Get Small," respectively. Both cases were dismissed by federal courts in New York.

The lawsuit against Universal Music Group marks the latest chapter in TufAmerica's ongoing efforts to enforce its asserted copyrights and protect the legacy of the artists it represents. As the case unfolds, it will be closely watched by the music industry and copyright lawyers for insights into how courts may interpret and apply copyright laws in the context of sample-based music production.

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