Roskilde Festival 2011 - Day 2

Last summer Portishead’s Geoff Barrow went on the warpath against the Weeknd after the Weeknd’s song “Belong To The World” appeared to sample Portishead’s “Machine Gun.” Barrow (pictured) claimed that the Weeknd had requested permission to sample “Machine Gun” and that Portishead had denied that permission, while the Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye told an interviewer that “Belong To The World” was merely inspired by Portishead. Now, nearly a year later, Barrow has rekindled the feud by producing the alleged letter requesting permission to sample the song. As Pitchfork points out, Barrow posted the letter to Twitter this morning:

Assuming this letter is real — and there’s little reason to believe it’s fake — it doesn’t necessarily prove that the Weeknd unlawfully sampled Portishead, only that Tesfaye requested permission to use the sample. He may well have created a reasonable facsimile of the “Machine Gun” drum sound rather than directly sampling it. Either way, I’m utterly curious about what kind of behind-the-scenes action caused Barrow to bring this conflict back into the public eye today. Here are the two songs again for your careful examination. Skip ahead to about 2:36 in the “Belong To The World” video to hear the disputed drum sound.

[Photo by Felix Kunze/Getty Images.]

Comments (12)
  1. Barrow is probably in the right but he’s just kind of coming across as bitter and salty with this considering no one above the age of 16 really gives a shit about The Weeknd anymore.

  2. I loved the Weeknd’s first three mixtapes but Kiss Land totally sucks ass. Doubt the album will have any kind of legacy so Barrow ought to just take this to his lawyer if he’s pissed. Portishead is in a different league entirely.

  3. This is copyright infringement. period. the weekend’s track had likely included the sample before the record’s official release as it appears as though the label went to clear it after it’s creation. That being said the weekend may very well have recreated + replaced the drum sample after receiving denial from Barrow + prior to the release, but that section of the song in question is clearly a derivative work directly based off of Portishead’s original production.

    • Personally, I hope that “Kiss Land” was just a misstep and that there is more good stuff to come from the Weeknd. But to paraphrase Jack Black, “Belong to the World” is just a tiny footnote on Geoff Barrow’s epic ass. Let your lawyer shake his label down for money, no need to make it a public beef.

      • That wasn’t meant to be a reply to you.

        • yeah no worries, i just hate music law because it’s rarely upheld & that contributes to the continuation of devaluing it in general, call it a pet peeve call it a “who cares anyway.”

  4. Copyright infringement on drum sounds and patterns that can easily be recreated? Give me a break. As to why Portishead is just now sharing this? Well, if they do decide to take suit against homeboy, they have given him enough time to make money off the track so they can collect “damages.” OWWWOOOOOOOO!

    • I take it you didnt read the earlier dispute. Geoff barrow doesnt want Weeknds money.

      • I’ve seen some back and forth for a year now, but despite what people are saying it’s my opinion that now is the time to go after Republic for some $$$. I fully support Barrow not signing over a license to his sample. The re-creating of an arguably crappier sample would need to be proven in court. Case could get settled out of court. Even if money isn’t an issue, a lawsuit would prove a point. However, recreating samples that are derivatives of other artists’ work should not constitute copyright infringement. Using a direct sample, after being denied, is a completely different story. OWWWOOOOOOO!

    • dude, it’s not just a beat, the overall sound of that element and the creation behind it is clearly identifiable. Weekend could have made it at least sonically different, but the original inspiration & copyright of that sound, as it pertains to the phrase, is near identical. While ” “The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property…Copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed.” wouldn’t you agree that the way in which this “beat” is expressed is undeniably similar?

      Especially since we know that there was intent here to use the pre-existing beat with that same sound for part of this song, as evidenced by the attempt to license it in the first place. Simply making a new one doesn’t free an artist from copyright infringement when it comes to composition or likeness. That’s like saying, “Hey I read your book, loved what you came up with & wanted to use part of it in my new book, instead of quoting you properly I’m just going to include it & claim that I came up with it.”

      • I believe the sounds in question share similarities, rather than being near identical. Weeknd clearly wanted the sample, got denied, and (hopefully) created his own rendition. That should be OK. I can see why Portishead would be pissed tho. They didn’t want the dude to use their “intellectual property” for one of his songs. OWWWOOOOOOO!

  5. Damning evidence.

    The Weeknd made “You Belong to the World” with the “Machine Gun” sample and repeatedly asked to license the song. Read that last line of the letter with its ASAP request. Geoff denied them, so they re-created the sample (shittily) and dropped the “You” from the title as a way to somewhat distance itself from the original. I don’t know what Geoff’s end game is with all of this, but I’d still be pissed if I was him.

    However, did Geoff approve the “Undenied” Portishead sample in ScHoolboy Q’s new album? Curious as to why he’d approve one and not the other. Only reason I can think of is Q’s song is good and Weeknd’s is shitty.

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