The Weeknd Hit With Copyright Lawsuit Over "The Hills"

The producer of the hit song allegedly sent a direct message on Twitter to a film composer and acknowledged a sample.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

A film financier based in the United Kingdom has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit over The Weeknd's hit song, "The Hills," alleging that it illicitly sampled a score from an obscure film titled, The Machine.

In court papers filed in California federal court on Wednesday, Cutting Edge Music Limited is suing The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), his producers and music giants Universal, Warner Chappell, Sony/ATV and others.

The plaintiff identifies itself as a company that finances films and acquires interest in film score compositions and sound recordings. The Machine, about cyborgs created in a war against China, was one of the films, released in 2013 and had a score by Tom Raybould. 

The key evidence in the complaint — or at least the one pertaining to access and being cited by Cutting Edge Music in its lawsuit — is an alleged message sent through Twitter by co-defendant Emmanuel "Mano" Nickerson, a prominent music producer who worked on "The Hills."

According to the complaint (read here in full), "On or about March 9, 2015, Defendant MANO sent Raybould a Twitter direct message stating 'I sampled your music might make it 2 the weeknd next album. Huge fan of what u did 4 the machine movie!' ”

"The Hills" was released in May as the second single from The Weeknd's album, "Beauty Behind the Madness." It's topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for several weeks and has been remixed by Eminem, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne.

As for alleged substantial similarity, the complaint says that "Both the Infringing Song and the Track featuring synthesizer bass-lines performed with almost identical idiosyncratic sounds at the same register and using the same pitch sequence, melodic phase structure and rhythmic durations."

The plaintiff, represented by Thomas Brackey at Freund & Brackey, is claiming copyright infringement as well as unjust enrichment and is demanding damages as well as a permanent injunction.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to reps for The Weeknd for comment.

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