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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Turner

Steely and Clevie take Despacito's Luis Fonsi to court

NY: Steely and Clevie Productions Ltd, Cleveland Browne and the estate of Wycliffe' Steely' Johnson of music duo Steely & Clevie - who were responsible for producing over 75% of the top 100 hit songs recorded in Jamaica between 1986 and 1990 - has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in California Central District Court against Warner Music, Universal Music Latin Entertainment, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and other defendants.

The suit, alleges that several songs recorded by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi aka Luis Alfonso Rodríguez López-Cepero, contain original elements from Steely and Clevie's 1989 song ‘Fish Market’ aka 'Poco Man Jam'. Law firm Doniger / Burroughs will represent Johnson's estate.

The law firm, which has offices in California and New York, specialises in protecting intellectual property and the enforcement of artists' rights. The company's website states that it has recovered more than US$100 million for its clients, winning 14 of its last 14 copyright infringement jury trials and prevailing in numerous other on appeal.

According to the complaint, 'Clevie is a world-renowned influential and innovative composer, musician and producer known for pioneering drum machines in reggae. Steely was a visionary and innovative composer, musician and producer. Together they formed the writing, musical and producing duo Steely & Clevie and worked on numerous genre-defining projects. Mr. Browne and Mr. Johnson worked with many high-profile and internationally famous artists, including reggae legends Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Ziggy Marley and Lee' Scratch' Perry.'

The 'Poco man'/'Fish Market' riddim was produced by Steelie & Clevie and released in 1990. Popular songs released on the riddim include Gregory Peck, Flourgon - Tie Me Again; Daddy Lilly - When Yu Si Wi Come; Silver Fox & Jackie Chang - Bad Whud and Steely & Clevie - Fish Market.

The reggaeton genre's stylistic origins may be traced back to Panama in the early 1980s, before spreading to Puerto Rico and the United States. Distinctive elements of the genre can be traced back to Shabba's 1991 classic song 'Dem Bow' and  Steely & Clevie's 'Fish Market' riddim.

The 43-year-old Fonsi is a major superstar in the Latin market. His hit single 'Despacito' featuring rapper Daddy Yankee topped the charts in 47 countries in 2017 and reached the top 10 of six others. It was ranked as one of the most successful Spanish-language tracks in pop music history and is the first Spanish song since the 'Macarena' to top the Billboard Hot 100. Fonsi has broken six Guinness World Records and sold more than 11 million records with 'Despacito', with over 7 billion views on youtube.

Fonsi has built a substantial fortune with an estimated net worth in the millions, earned from his exploits in music and investments in the stock market, property holdings. This is not the first lawsuit that has been filed against Fonsi. In 2019, Newton Cortes filed a complaint against Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Erika Ender and Universal Music Group alleging copyright infringement in the hit song 'Despacito.' US District Judge Jathleen Williams in August 2020, however, dismissed the lawsuit in a Florida court.

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