Kendrick Lamar Hit With Copyright Lawsuit Over “Loyalty”

Terrance Hayes, a music producer, is suing, among others, Kendrick Lamar, Terrace Jamahl Martin, Josef Leimberg, and Top Dawg Entertainment for copyright infringement.

The lawsuit was filed on August 21, and in the complaint, Hayes claims that Lamar’s hit-song “Loyalty” (from his 2017 album Damn) copied from Hayes’ 2011 song, which is also titled Loyalty. Hayes claimes that in 2011, he and Leimberg collaborated in 2011 to create Hayes’ ‘Loyalty’ track, that Hayes kept his music catalogue and all of his recording sessions on Leimberg’s computer at Leimberg’s studio.

Leimberg collaborated with Martin 2014 on Kendrick Lemar’s album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and Martin was also a producer on Lamar’s album Damn. Hayes met Martin through Leimberg, and claims that Martin “was familiar with Hayes’ work” and that Martin had access to Hayes’ ‘Loyalty’ track due to his close working relationship with Leimberg.

Hayes alleges that to disguise the copying of his song, that Martin and other defendants combined Hayes’ Loyalty track with another sample, and then slowed the song down using a synthesizer.

Hayes makes several statements about what was copied, specifically that Lamar’s Loyalty track “copies substantial qualitative and quantitative portions of the Subject Track, including the same song title, similar subject matter, substantially similar note combinations and structures, melodies, themes, rhythm, and kick and snare patterns”, and that both songs “use the same chord progressions, melodies and other aspects throughout, and [that] neither song features any changes in the musical elements as the recordings progress toward their conclusions.” Hayes also claims that if you were to juxtapose the melodies of both Loyalty songs, you could see that the melodies are identical, with just a few minor variations.

Hayes petitions the court for a laundry list of remedies, including: a permanent injunction; a constructive trust, for Hayes’ benefit, over “any recordings, videos reproductions, files, online programs, and other material in connection with the Infringing Song and all revenues resulting from the exploitation of same”; all of the defendant’s profits; all of Hayes’ losses; any other monetary advantages gained by the defendants due to their infringement; actual damages and lost profits; pre-judgment interest, and; Hayes’ costs in filing the lawsuit.

Lamar is not a stranger to copyright lawsuits. In 2018, Lamar and music artist SZA was sued over the song “All the Stars”; Lamar and music artist The Weeknd was also sued over the track “Pray for Me,” both of which are songs that were featured on the Black Panther soundtrack.

The case name is Hayes v. Duckworth et al., and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The case number is 2:20-cv-07649. You can view the full complaint here.

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