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Rick Astley "Rick-Rolls" Yung Gravy In New Lawsuit For Publicity Rights Infringement

Rick Astley “Rick-Rolls” Yung Gravy In New Lawsuit For Publicity Rights Infringement

Rick Astley (Photo: SIPA/Action Press)
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Yung Gravy in 2019
Yung Gravy, 2019 (Photo: Wikipedia/WikiWikiSkylar)

LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) – Rick Astley, (56), famous for his 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” is suing rapper Yung Gravy, (born Matthew Raymond Hauri, 26) for impersonating his voice on Gravy’s 2022 hit, “Betty (Get Money).” Astley alleges Gravy imitated his voice without legal authorization. TMZ reports the lawsuit is reportedly for “millions.”

Astley’s lawsuit was filed Thursday (January 26) in Los Angeles court alleging the hit song, which hit No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2022 violated the singer’s right to publicity because it closely mimicked the voice Astley used in his song.

According to Billboard, Astley’s lawsuit explains that Gravy wasn’t able to get permission to sample the original recording of “Never Gonna Give You Up”, and because of that, Gravy re-created the song hiring Popnick (real name Nick Seeley) to imitate Astley’s voice.

However, according to Complete Music Update, Gravy’s team, which includes Dillon Francis as a producer, acquired all the necessary permissions from the writers/publishers (Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman) of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” to use the song in the 2022 release. The song rights were licensed and with Gravy’s recording being new, no copyrights were infringed by the making and release of Gravy’s song – known in the music world as “interpolating.”

Additionally, Stock, Aitken, and Waterman get songwriting credits for “Betty (Get Money)” within the MLC collecting society. So, from a copyright angle, Astley has no claim over the licensing as he’s not a writer or copyright owner, and even if he did – the original recording was not used.

But, the new lawsuit argues, because Gravy hired Popnick to imitate Astley’s “signature voice,” his publicity rights under California law were infringed, which has caused him “immense damage.”

“A license to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorize the stealing of the artist’s voice in the original recording”, writes Astley’s lawyers. “So, instead, they resorted to the theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a license and agreement”.

Astley’s lawsuit is banking on a ruling made in 1988 involving Bette Midler. In that case, Midler sued after Ford used a soundalike to record vocals for an advertisement. Midler had no copyright claim but argued that the distinctive sound of her voice was itself protected under law and the US Ninth Circuits Appeal Court agreed.

In a statement to Billboard, Astley’s lawyer says: “Mr. Astley owns his voice. California law is clear since the Bette Midler case more than 30 years ago that nobody has the right to imitate or use it without his permission.”

Nothing like getting “rick-rolled” by the man himself.

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