PLAGIARISM AND CORRUPTION

Lawsuit against Luis Miguel, one of the most important pop singers in Latin America

Marcos Lifshitz is a Mexican songwriter who composed and copyrighted the song “Siento nuestro Aliento” in 1997. He delivered the song to Warner executives in 1999. He didn’t receive any news about the song, but by the end of that year he heard a similar song named “Amarte es un placer” released by the Mexican pop-singer Luis Miguel.

Marcos filed a civil lawsuit in Mexico for moral damage against Juan Carlos Calderon (who appears as a composer), the publisher company Pedrosillo (owned by J.C. Calderon), Luis Miguel (the producer of the album), and record companies Warner Music and WEA International.

The song “Amarte es un placer” was the fourth single of the album of the same name. It won 2 Latin Grammys in 2000 and sold over 3 million copies. The song reached number six at the Billboard Latin chart and got a nomination for Pop Song of the Year at the “Lo Nuestro” awards.

After six years of litigation, Lipshitz won the lawsuit in 2007. The judge ordered that he should receive a compensation of 40% of the total revenues of the LP from the plaintiffs. In addition, the record company had to remove the LP from stores.

The most recent news I could find was from 2012.  On November 2012 Juan Carlos Calderon passed away. Furthermore, there is an article from Univision communications where Mark Lifshitz said that the litigation continues as the lawyers of Luis Miguel got an injunction to delay the process of payment. I’m trying to reach Mark Lifshitz on Facebook to ask him for more info and the status of the lawsuit.

Another important thing is that it is not possible to find any track online of the song “Siento nuestro aliento”. Lipshitz and his attorneys stated that the song “Amarte es un placer” is an adaptation of his melody made without his authorization.

La Jornada newspaper: Luis Miguel y Juan Carlos Calderón, culpables de plagio

Univision communications article: Doce años, y pleito legal contra Luis Miguel sigue

The decision taken by the judge

The civil court ruled against Luis Miguel (as producer), Juan Carlos Calderón (as composer), and the record company Warner for plagiarism. The ruling established that they should pay the original composer 40 percent of the royalties generated by the album. The amount of such royalties was not specified but the album sold about three million copies at approximately US$ 12.3 each.

I think this was a fair decision because this solo composer fought against a big shark of the industry (Warner music), a super star (Luis Miguel) and a very well known and prestigious composer Juan Carlos Calderon.  In addition, this ruling has set an important precedent that can benefit all Mexican composers in the future.

It is sad to acknowledge that corruption in Mexico makes it very hard for common people to get justice. Although he won the case, it took six years for a judge to rule in his favor. Additionally, Luis Miguel’s lawyers got an injunction that has delayed the process of payment. Perhaps, one solution for Marcos could have been to demand a lower amount of money and push more for being recognized at least as a co-writer of the song.

Marcos expressed many times that he would like to reach an agreement with Luis Miguel in as long as he was willing to record some of his songs in his next album. It is said that he mentioned the following in this negotiation: “I have 20 songs in the drawer written a voice like yours.”

The most recent update on the case I was able to get from Marcos Lifshitz himself. To my surprise, I received a response from him through Facebook

In his message he explains that he has published a book on the case (he will send me the link to the publication!) and that the case is still open after 13 years. It is once again on the first court and as far as he knows “as things go, it could be another 13 years.”

I hope to read the book and keep in touch with Marcos as this is a paradigmatic case in understanding the complications of copyright laws from which all composers can learn a lot!

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