Los Angeles – Cleveland rapper DJ Orrin Lynn Tolliver, Jr., has reached a settlement in a copyright infringement case involving the unauthorized use of a sampling of his 1982 rap hit, ‘I Need a Freak’ in a Black Eyed Peas song. Tolliver’s copyright was infringed when it was used in the Peas 2005 smash hit ‘My Humps’, which became their third top ten single in the U.S.
Tolliver wrote and recorded ‘I Need a Freak’ with his band, Sexual Harassment while at friend and collaborator James McCants’ Heat Records recording studio. The song was registered by McCants with performing rights organization BMI, giving Tolliver credit as the songwriter under the alias David Payton. Under the agreement, Tolliver was entitled to receive 75% of any royalties received from the song.
Years later, without the knowledge of Tolliver, McCants negotiated the release of Sexual Harassment’s 1983 album, ‘I Need a Freak’ with Montage Records. The album went on to sell over 100,000 copies and when the title song of the album was covered by rapper Too Short on the Priority Records rap compilation, ‘In Tha Beginning’, Tolliver finally sent a cease and desist letter to McCants, in which he denied licensing the composition to the label.
‘I Need a Freak’ continued to be used in several different rap compilations between 2000-2005, even though McCants maintained that he was not involved in its licensing. Tolliver finally filed a copyright infringement suit against McCants in 2005, when he recognized his song as the key sample in ‘My Humps.’ Over the course of the lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, McCants initially denied that he ever issued a license and that the song was not sampled by the Black Eyed Peas. He then changed his defense by claiming that he was co-writer for ‘I Need a Freak’ and co-owner under the work-for-hire doctrine.
Although McCants was granted a 2009 motion for reconsideration after he was found guilty in the first verdict, the judge ultimately ruled in favor of Tolliver. McCants was ordered to pay Tolliver $1.2 million in royalties and damages.
While the Black Eyed Peas were not named in the judgement, they are currently facing other copyright infringement allegations for their songs, ‘Boom Boom Pow’, and ‘I’ve Got a Feeling.’