According to a Billboard report, published on Thursday (Jan. 26), Rick Astley claims in his lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles court, that Yung Gravy’s song “Betty (Get Money)” allegedly violated the singer’s right of publicity because it closely imitates Astley’s signature voice from his multiplatinum single.
“In an effort to capitalize off of the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr. Astley, defendants… conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice throughout the song,” Astley’s attorneys reportedly stated in the legal documents. “The public could not tell the difference. The imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice was so successful the public believed it was actually Mr. Astley singing.”
Interestingly, Yung Gravy and his producers, including Dillon Francis, were able to clear the instrumental of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which Astley does not own. That gave them the legal right to repurpose the music and lyrics from the original composition—a process known as “interpolating”—for their song “Betty.”
However, Astley’s lawyers contend that Gravy and his team weren’t able to secure a license to use the actual sound recording of Astley’s famous track—in other words, they couldn’t “sample” the song—so instead, they hired Popnick (real name Nick Seeley) to imitate Astley’s “signature voice” on “Betty.” Astley’s attorneys also reportedly cited in the lawsuit an Instagram video in which Popnick said he wanted the song to “sound identical” to Astley’s voice.
“A license to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorize the stealing of the artist’s voice in the original recording,” Astley’s lawyers wrote in the suit. “So, instead, they resorted to the theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a license and without agreement.”
Astley’s legal team maintains the singer is “extremely protective over his name, image, and likeness,” and alleges the unauthorized use of the soundalike voice had caused him “immense damage.”
In a statement to Billboard, Rick Astley’s attorney, Richard Busch, a high-profile music litigator, best known for winning the game-changing copyright-infringement lawsuit over Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” said: “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.”
Additionally, Busch claims that Yung Gravy violated federal trademark law by making false statements that made it appear that Astley cosigned the song. Busch added, “These statements were all false.”
It’s unclear how much Rick Astley is seeking in compensatory damages.
XXL has reached out to Yung Gravy‘s management team and his publicist for comment.