Rick Astley and rapper Yung Gravy have settled a lawsuit over the use of Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” – also known as the Rickroll song – in a 2022 Yung Gravy track.
In January, Astley sued Yung Gravy, whose real name is Matthew Hauri, for “intentionally stealing” Astley’s voice in the rapper’s hit single.Betty (get money)“, which features a re-recording of the 1980s song. The lawsuit also named the song’s producers, Nick Seeley (known as Popnick), David Wilson (dwilly) and Dillon Francis, as well as the record label Republic Records.
The settlement was reached out of court last Friday, according to court documents obtained by The Times. Hauri’s attorney, Michael Niborski, filed the document on Tuesday informing the Los Angeles Superior Court of the settlement, but did not provide any details about the terms of the agreement.
Neither Niborski nor Astley’s attorney, Richard Busch, immediately responded to The Times’ request for comment Thursday. Busch, whose former clients include Eminem, has also dealt with Spotify and Universal Music Group in copyright cases.
Yung Gravy’s “Betty (Get Money)” borrows heavily from “Never Gonna Give You Up,” from the catchy drum beat to the earlier track’s iconic melody and synth chords. It begins with Astley’s signature baritone voice singing the familiar refrain: “Never gonna give you up / never gonna let you down / never gonna run around and desert you.” Then Yung Gravy raps his first verse. However, the voice that the listener hears in the chorus is actually not Astley’s, but producer Seeley’s. The producers believed that the reshoot represented a real solution to the copyright complications.
Although the song’s producers received permission to use the original’s 1987 composition, they had not received consent to use Astley’s voice as a sample, the lawsuit says, describing the re-recording as “a deliberate theft of Mr. Astley’s voice “ was referred to. The producers were also accused of “attempting to capitalize on Mr Astley’s immense popularity and goodwill”.
The lawsuit cites the famous 1988 case between Bette Midler and Ford Motor Co., which imitated her singing voice in their car commercials. “A license to use the underlying original musical composition does not authorize the theft of the artist’s voice in the original recording,” Astley’s lawsuit said, referring to the case in which a federal appeals court ultimately sided with Midler.
After its release in June 2022, “Betty” became a hit, peaking at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As of this article’s publication, the song has been streamed more than 200 million times on Spotify and the music video has been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube.
Astley’s lawsuit involved a payment amount that would have been set in court but was “probably in the millions.”
The lawsuit relates to August 2022 billboard Interview with Yung Gravy in which he opened up about the process of making the song, saying they “basically redid the whole song” and “had a different singer and different instruments, but everything was very similar because legally it made it easier.” The rapper added that he had always been a fan of the song, joking that his mother “messed it up when I came out of the womb.”
Astley rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early ’90s when he released a string of hits including “Together Forever,” “She Wants to Dance With Me” and “Cry for Help.” He gained new prominence as an internet sensation years later after a US Air Force master sergeant created the first “Rick Roll” video in 2007 Vice. Master Sgt. Shawn Cotter uploaded a link to an online forum, leading users to believe that it led to a trailer for the video game “Grand Theft Auto: IV”; instead it led to this a meme using Astley’s music video “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The prank spread across the Internet and became known as “rickrolling” or “getting rickrolled.”
In return, Astley received a number of brand sponsorships, a new record deal and new opportunities to perform at high-profile events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008. He then released new music and performed on stage with the Foo Fighters in 2017. And last summer, Astley Performed at Glastonbury Music Festival 2023 in England.
“You can’t control something like that, so the only thing you can do is have a little fun with it,” he said in a 2008 interview with The Times. “And you know, it got everything going again.”
Times staff writer Mikael Wood contributed to this report.