Mary J. Blige Hit Single ‘Real Love’ Slammed With Lawsuit

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Photo: Kathy Hutchins | Shutterstock

A copyright infringement lawsuit has been filed against Universal Music Group (UMG) concerning Mary J. Blige’s 1992 hit song “Real Love.” While Blige is not named in the lawsuit, it alleges that the song features an unlicensed sample from The Honey Drippers’ 1972 funk track “Impeach the President.”

Tuff City Records, the label filing the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, has claimed that they have informed UMG of the uncleared sample in “Real Love” but have not received a satisfactory response. According to the complaint, UMG Recordings, a UMG subsidiary, reached an agreement on the uncleared sample, but UMG itself has not.

Tuff City Records, known for owning copyrights in various musical genres, has a history of legal battles over uncleared samples with artists such as JAY-Z, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean. Despite this, UMG has allegedly refused to engage in substantive negotiations over the “Real Love” sample.

The Lawsuit for “Real Love”

“Real Love,” a track from Blige’s debut album “What’s the 411?,” was a significant success, peaking at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1992. This lawsuit is just the latest in a series of legal disputes over music sampling, highlighting the ongoing complexities of intellectual property rights in the music industry.

Tuff City Records, based in New York, asserted in the lawsuit that they own copyrights in “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.” They argue that unauthorized sampling threatens their rights and the integrity of their catalog.

Representatives for UMG have not yet responded to requests for comment regarding the lawsuit. Tuff City’s attorney, Hillel Parness of Parness Law Firm, declined to comment on the ongoing legal proceedings.

This legal action is not the first time Tuff City Records has taken legal action over unauthorized samples. They have previously sued high-profile musicians such as the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean. While some lawsuits were dismissed or settled out of court, Tuff City remains committed to protecting their intellectual property rights.

The case underscores the challenges faced by artists, labels, and copyright holders in the digital age, where sampling and remixing are prevalent but legal frameworks for managing intellectual property rights remain complex and sometimes contentious.