Steely & Clevie Challenge Motion to Dismiss Copyright Suit Involving Reggaetón Stars

Steely & Clevie Productions responded assertively to several motions aiming to drop their extensive copyright violation lawsuit against top Reggaetón icons, such as Bad Bunny, Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Pitbull, Drake, and Justin Bieber.

The Jamaican firm, in recent filings in a California court, argued that their 1989 Fish Market riddim, globally recognized as Dem Bow in the Reggaetón scene, possesses a distinctiveness and originality that warrants protection under US copyright laws.

Originally lodged in 2021 and later broadened in April 2023, the comprehensive 228-page lawsuit claims that close to 170 artists, producers, and music labels copied their riddim, integrating its components into over 1,800 tracks launched between 1995 and 2021.

Representatives from the Pryor Cashman LLP firm, who defend the majority of the accused, including stars like Justin Bieber, Daddy Yankee, and Enrique Iglesias, have stated that Steely & Clevie are excessively claiming rights. They suggest that the duo is trying to take control of basic musical elements that define the Reggaeton genre.

Other artists, such as Bad Bunny, mirrored these sentiments, stating the lawsuit doesn’t include aspects like melody and lyrics that could be copyrighted. The renowned Puerto Rican artist also highlighted past legal cases where rhythms were deemed non-copyrightable.

Drake, the Canadian rapper who’s part of the lawsuit for his tracks One Dance and Mía, didn’t submit a motion to dismiss. Instead, he supported Pryor Cashman’s stance.

Countering this, Steely & Clevie maintained their Fish Market riddim encompasses a special blend of drums and bass that is protectable. They pointed out various drum types and percussion instruments, emphasizing their uniqueness.

Addressing Bad Bunny’s argument, they said his portrayal of Fish Market as just a “rhythm” is overly simplistic. They further refuted Drake’s decision to back Pryor Cashman, stating his reasons for doing so weren’t clear enough.

Represented by the Doniger/Burroughs firm, the case has a rich history. Back in 1990, the Fish Market beat was used in Shabba Ranks’ Dem Bow, following which various iterations and remakes of the original riddim emerged, culminating in a Spanish cover named Ellos Benia and another version, Pounder Dub Mix II.

Steely & Clevie allege that Pounder Dub Mix II mirrors Fish Market and has been a staple in Reggaetón, often referred to as the Pounder riddim.

Highlighting potential discrepancies in the lawsuit, Pryor Cashman pinpointed issues related to copyright registration for the initial versions of Fish Market. They argued that the case should be discarded based on these technicalities.

However, Steely & Clevie clarified their stance on the matter, mentioning they secured registration for the Pounder riddim after their first claim but before its revision in April 2023. They further stressed that their Dem Bow copyright wasn’t restricted to just the lyrics, suggesting a wider scope of copyright defense.

The consequences of this lawsuit are significant. The tracks in question have accumulated billions of views online, with many achieving Platinum certification in the US. Notable songs include Luis Fonsi’s Despacito Remix, Daddy Yankee’s Gasoline, and DJ Snake’s Taki Taki.

The case, considered monumental, is in the hands of federal judge, Hon. André Birotte Jr. Hearings are expected in September, where the decision to proceed or dismiss the lawsuit will be made.