French Montana Backed Out of Deal to Clear Sample — But Released the Song Anyway, Lawsuit Claims

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French Montana is facing a copyright lawsuit claiming his 2022 song “Blue Chills” features an unlicensed sample from a singer-songwriter – who says the rapper tentatively agreed to pay her for the clip but then never actually did so.

Skylar Gudasz’s ghostly 2020 song “Femme Fatal” can be heard playing throughout French’s track, and she claims that the rapper’s reps offered to pay her for the sample – both in upfront fees and an ongoing payments, including a fifty-percent share of the publishing copyright.

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But in a lawsuit filed Thursday in North Carolina federal court, the singer says French (whose real name is Karim Kharbouch) then dropped “Blue Chills” without ever actually signing that deal.

“Despite repeated promises from defendants …. no signed agreement, fees, royalties, licensing agreements or monies have ever been sent to plaintiff,” Gudasz’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

A rep for French Montana did not immediately return a request for comment.

Gudasz says she was first contacted in May 2022 by Deborah Mannis-Gardner, a well-known industry exec who has been called the “queen” of sample clearance, about French using “Femme Fatal” in an upcoming song. Gudasz says she and her lawyer then negotiated a deal in which she would receive more than $7000 in upfront fees, an .08 percent cut on master royalties, and a fifty-percent share of the copyright for French’s new composition.

But a month later, she claims that French, without notice, released the song “prior to finalizing and signing a licensing agreement.” Gudasz says that her lawyer quickly alerted Mannis-Gardner about the problem.

“Oh jeez,” Mannis-Gardner allegedly wrote in a response email, saying she would reach out to French’s attorney about the issue. But Gudasz says the situation was never resolved: “DMG continued to maintain there would be a final agreement, sent emails finalizing the licensing agreement and requested invoices from plaintiff, which plaintiff timely sent … and even sent plaintiff a congratulatory email.”

Gudasz says the aborted negotiations show that French “knowingly infringed” the earlier song, because they show that he was aware that he needed a license but chose to proceed without one. She claims that French even posted comments to Instagram congratulating her, and acknowledged her role in “Blue Chills” on an episode of Apple Music’s Rap Life Radio.

“The unauthorized and infringing use by defendants of the song ‘Femme Fatale’ has caused irreparable harm, damage and injury,” Gudasz’s lawyers wrote. “Plaintiff has been deprived of the rightful experience of benefitting and enjoying the fruits of her labor.”

In addition to French Montana, the lawsuit also names producer Harry Fraud (real name Rory William Quigley) as a defendant, as well Sony Music Entertainment and several other companies involved in French’s song. Mannis-Gardner is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit and is not accused of any wrongdoing.

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