Tuesday 11 August 2015

Shakira Plagiarism Verdict Reversed

Readers may recall that last August Ben told us about a case in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, in which a song entitled Loca by the singer Shakira, was found to have infringed the copyright of another song entitled Loca Con Su Tiguere written by Ramon Arias Vasquez in the 1990s.

On Monday the same court presided over by District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, reversed the earlier verdict after hearing new evidence about a cassette which had been used to register the song with the US Copyright Office and which also featured as an exhibit in the original trial. Sony/ATC Latin who were defendants in the original case produced new evidence which showed that the type of cassette on which the recording had been made was not available in 1998 when it was claimed the tape had been made. Furthermore the picture on the cover of the cassette depicted an adult singer named Jhoan Gonzalez, who because he was born in 1989, would have been aged nine years old, and so could not have been the singer on the tape, if it had been recorded in 1989. Also on the tape were songs by a Dominican band which had been written in 2008 and 2009. The court therefore concluded that the song Loca Con Su Tiguere is likely to have been composed around the same time.

In the original case, it had been claimed that Dominican rapper Edward Bello who along with Shakira and another writer, was responsible for writing the  song Loca, had met with Arias in 2006 and had heard the song Loca Con Su Tiguere. This, it was claimed, was how the song came to be copied and Loca was not therefore a case of independent creation. Bello had denied this version of events at the original trial.  In view of the court's finding that the song Loca Con Su Tiguere was not composed until 2008 or 2009, this would appear to back up Bello's testimony.

Understandably, according to Reuters, the Judge said that he had lost faith in Arias's testimony and there "was a basic issue of fraud in the trial". The copyright claim was dismissed. It appears unlikely that Mayimba Music, who brought the original claim as owners of the rights to Arias's songs, will be appealing the decision. 

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