Copyright

Less Reason to Smile? Lil Duval Sued Over His Hit Song “Smile (Living My Best Life)”

Quinn et al. v. Powell et al., Civil Action No. 1:22-cv-02404-SDG (N.D. Ga. June 15, 2022):

Plaintiffs Darwin Quinn and Mitchelle’l Sium filed suit against Defendants Roland Powell (professionally known as “Lil Duval”) and Rich Broke Entertainment, LLC on June 15, 2022 in the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta Division). The Complaint is premised on Plaintiffs’ beliefs that they share copyright ownership of the song, “Smile (Living My Best Life)” with Defendant Lil Duval. Based on these beliefs, Plaintiffs assert three claims for relief. First, Plaintiffs ask the Court for declaratory judgement that Plaintiffs are joint authors of “Smile (Living My Best Life),” Plaintiffs are entitled to co-writer credit on the copyright to the song and on subsequently released versions of the song, and that Plaintiffs are entitled to prospective and retroactive royalties and other money owed with respect to their alleged interest in the song. Second, Plaintiffs ask this Court to order Defendants to render an accounting of all revenues derived from the song and to pay Plaintiffs accordingly. Third, Plaintiffs ask this Court to impose a constructive trust over two-thirds of the song’s profits which Plaintiffs allege they are entitled to.

Defendant Lil Duval is a well-known comedian, actor, rapper, and singer who currently boasts over 3 million Instagram followers. Lil Duval’s song “Smile (Living My Best Life)” – which lies at the heart of Plaintiffs’ suit – was released in 2018 and currently has over 51 million views on YouTube and over 40 million streams on Spotify. According to the Complaint, Plaintiffs and Lil Duval previously composed another song together titled “Back n Forth” which incorporates artist Midnight Star’s song “Curious” and is registered by the U.S. Copyright Office under Registration No. SRu001412114. Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that Lil Duval then took the initial recording of “Back n Forth” to the producer Mr. Hanky who created a new beat for the song and interlaced Lil Duval’s repetition of the phrase “Smile, bitch” throughout the recording. Later, as the Complaint details, Mr. Hanky then incorporated a verse penned by Snoop Dogg into the song.  As a result of this iterative creative process, the commercially-released version of “Smile (Living My Best Life”) incorporates (1) Lil Duval’s performance of the “Back n Forth” hook, (2) Back n Forth’s “Curious” sample, and (3) Snoop Dogg’s verse over Mr. Hanky’s contributed beat.

In light of the foregoing, Plaintiffs’ three claims for relief stem from their contention that they were “responsible for directing the tempo reflected in the final sound recording” of “Smile (Living My Best Life)” and are therefore entitled to certain rights as copyright co-owners. This case has been assigned to Judge Steven B. Grimberg.

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