'Old Town Road' Caught in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

'Old Town Road' Caught in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

What's Happening?

It looks like Lil Nas X may be the latest artist with a smash hit to run into legal problems. The rapper’s ‘Old Town Road’ originally used an uncleared Nine Inch Nails sample. Lil Nas X bought the sample for $30 on an online marketplace that focused on rap beats known as BeatStars. 


The sample was taken from the track '34 Ghosts IV 'which was released in 2008 by Trent Reznor's namesake, Nine Inch Nails. Fan noticed the similarity between the beats weeks ago but thought nothing of it. They thought that Lil Nas X officially cleared the sample for licensing. However, this is not the case. 

Listen to the original sample here: 


How it all Happened

The song's instrumental was ripped by a dutch teenager known as Kiowa Roukema, aka ‘Young Kio'. He mixed the banjo-laden track with a trap beat and posted it for sale.  Young Kio first found the Nine Inch Nails track on YouTube — of course.

“Young Kio’s sample of the Nine Inch Nails banjo bit was not cleared prior to it being uploaded to BeatStars — meaning it was played millions of times without the band’s approval or attribution,” Wang reported.

Multiple Streaming Records

Fast forward a few weeks, and ‘Old Town Road’ is setting one streaming record after another.  But that attention is also drawing scrutiny, including the realization that Lil Nas X unwittingly infringed on the critical sample that made ‘Old Town Road’ famous.

Status of the Lawsuit

At this stage, none of the parties are commenting, though Reznor already has a writing credit on the track. That strongly suggests that a deal has been made — at least with some of the players involved.

If Reznor demanded a payout, it might have been a seriously-large ask given the urgency of the fast-rising hit. Columbia/Sony obviously didn’t have any time to waste once ‘Old Town Road’ started taking off, which also means that Reznor may have secured a juicy percentage payout on both publishing, recording, and potentially other revenue streams tied to the song.

But Reznor himself is actually pretty liberal on copyrights. The song itself was released under the Creative Commons license, though importantly, it was specifically assigned the ‘Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike‘ license, which prohibits commercial exploitation of the work without previous permissions.

Listen to 'Old Town Road' on Spotify here:




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