The lawsuit was filed by the Florida-based AOM Music Inc., which does business as BM Records, on Sept. 27, claiming the “unauthorized incorporation” of DJ Playero’s “Besa Tu Cuerpo,” “Chocha Con Bicho,” and “Sigan Bailando” into “Safaera,” “for which no license or authorization was obtained,” according to the suit.
BM Records is the rights holder for the collective “Playero Works.”
Founded in 1978 by Pedro Merced, BM Records became a resource for the underground reggaetón scene in Puerto Rico. In 1991, Merced offered DJ Playero (real name: Pedro Gerardo Torruellas Brito) a distribution deal. In 1992, the Playero 37 Underground mixtape, featuring “Besa Tu Cuerpo” and “Chocha Con Bicho,” was released under BM Record –, followed by Playero Street Mix Vol. 1 in 1995 and Playero Street Mix Vol. 2 (featuring “Sigan Bailando”) in 1996.
Two years later, both Playero 37 Underground and Playero Greatest Hits: Street Mix 2 were registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, listing Playero as the sole author and BM Records, doing business as Latin Music Dist., Inc., as copyright claimant. The suit reports that on July 1, 2020, the “Playero Works” were transferred from Latin Music Dist., Inc. to BM Records, by written copyright assignment.
“Safaera,” part of Bad Bunny’s chart-topping sophomore album YHLQMDLG, is a nearly five-minute song influenced by the old school perreo and reggaetón beats you’d hear at the marquesina parties. Produced by Tainy, DJ Orma, and Subelo Neo, the song samples and interpolates various classic hits, including the signature six-note hook to Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On.”
The lawsuit, which also names Jowell & Randy, Rimas Entertainment, plus seven other artists and music companies, states: “On information and belief, Defendants were well aware of the need to ‘clear’ the various third-party works sampled on ‘Safaera’ by obtaining licenses to each, as demonstrated by the fact that, for example, Melissa Elliott p/k/a Missy Elliot is credited as a writer on ‘Safaera’ due to its sampling of her hit song ‘Get Ur Freak On.’”
It also points out that “Safaera” was temporarily pulled from Spotify due to a claim that a fragment of the song did not have the corresponding rights. “However, at no point did Defendants ever ‘clear’ the ‘Playero Works’ for use on ‘Safaera.’”
Merced is asking for $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringed work, including attorneys’ fees and costs.
On the other hand, DJ Playero, who describes himself as a serious and responsible person who stays away from scandals, took to Instagram to write a long statement, clarifying that he knows nothing about the lawsuit and has nothing but respect for all the artists involved.
“I am proud that I was part of opening the doors to these artists who are known worldwide today,” he wrote, “a song that sounds on the radio and in the world with part of a track of mine is a beautiful feeling that no one can imagine.”
He explained that for over 15 years, including the digital era, a company that he “does not know” has profited from his productions and that the lawsuit was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“I, DJ Playero, am not signed with anyone. I do not know that company. I do not profit from anyone, and I have no knowledge of that lawsuit,” he stated. “I ask you to give me the space to inform myself with my lawyers and take the best action in this regard.”
Billboard reached out for comment but did not hear back at press time.