Michael Jackson and Rihanna Both Get Sued Over a 1972 Tune

This article originally appeared on Techdirt.

At 75, an artist may be too old to write a new hit single, but that doesn’t make them too old to sue someone famous with a new hit single for a large sum of money over 10 syllables from a 37-year-old song. Cameroonian artist, Manu Dibango, is suing both Michael Jackson and Rihanna for copyright infringement over his 1972 hit, Soul Makossa. The complicating factor is that Jackson was already sued decades ago for infringing the tune in his 1983 single, Wanna Be Startin’ Something, and he had settled with Dibango, but now he’s under fire again for allegedly licensing the infringing bit to Rihanna for her 2007 hit, Please Don’t Stop the Music, without contacting Dibango to get permission. According to Wikipedia, Soul Makossa features a Duala chant, “Mama-ko, mama-sa, ma-ka-ma-ko-ssa,” while a similar sounding Swahili chant, “Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa, Ma Ma Coo Sa,” appears in both Jackson’s and Rihanna’s song. Dibango is demanding €500,000, and that the courts block the labels from receiving any money from the allegedly infringing tunes until the matter is resolved.

Dibango has a history of making great music, but more recently, he served as President of the Cameroon Music Corporation, where he was known for defending intellectual property rights and fighting piracy. It’s a real shame that you need to hire a law firm to make use of a catchy phrase from another song, but I guess that’s what happens when everyone is focused on “protecting” their rights, rather than on making music.

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