Trumpet riff at center of "Vogue" infringement case

April 6, 2016Article
Los Angeles Daily Journal

Greenberg Glusker entertainment partner William Hochberg was quoted in the Daily Journal article, “Trumpet riff at center of "Vogue" infringement case,” written by Steven Crighton on April 6, 2016. The article addresses a 2012 infringement lawsuit concerning the use of a horn riff in Madonna's 1990 song "Vogue."

The lawsuit alleged that music producer Shep Pettibone intentionally disguised a second-long trumpet riff from "Love Break," a song he had helped remix on behalf of plaintiff-appellee VMG Salsoul LLC's predecessor, Salsoul Records.

District Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell dismissed the case, ruling that regardless of whether or not the riff was sampled, it was indistinct and brief enough to qualify as de minimis.

Hochberg said de minimis can marginalize the role of musicians. If producers want a specific sound, he said, they should create their own version inspired by the original or buy a license:

"They can manipulate the sounds, but the reason they sample is because there's some mojo in the music," Hochberg said. "Whether they slow it or distort it, they need to pay for it."