Rick Astley is taking Yung Gravy to court.
Billboard reports that Astley is suing the rapper over his song “Betty (Get Money), which incorporates Astley’s signature song “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
In the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles on Thursday, Astley alleges that Yung Gravy’s song doesn’t sample the track, but instead uses a new recording featuring a singer who impersonates Astley’s voice so well that listeners believed it was Astley singing on the track, not a soundalike.
READ MORE: Rick Astley Puts A New Spin On ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ Video 35 Years Later
“In an effort to capitalize off of the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr. Astley, defendants … conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice throughout the song,” Astley’s suit declares. “The public could not tell the difference. The imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice was so successful the public believed it was actually Mr. Astley singing.”
Astley’s lawyers contend that the singer remains “extremely protective over his name, image, and likeness,” and that the unauthorized use of an impersonator on the song caused him “immense damage.”
The suit points out that Yung Gravy and his producers allegedly obtained clearance for “the underlying musical composition” of “Never Gonna Give You Up”, which allows them legally to recreate music and lyrics from the original in the new track — a recording process that has become known as “interpolating.”
However, the lawsuit also notes that the rapper didn’t receive a license to use the actual track — a.k.a. “sampling” — which means they didn’t have the right to copy the the music, particularly Astley’s vocals.
READ MORE: Greta Thunberg Sings Along To ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, Rick Astley Reacts
Astley’s suit alleges that singer Popnick (whose real name is Nick Seeley) was hired to imitate Astley’s “signature voice” on the track, pointing to an Instagram video in which Popnick said he wanted the song to “sound identical” to Astley’s voice.
Because that was done without obtaining permission, the lawsuit claims that Gravy and Popnick violated Astley’s “right of publicity,” which is described as one’s “legal right to control how your name, image or likeness is commercially exploited by others.”
The suit states, “A license to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorize the stealing of the artist’s voice in the original recording. So, instead, they resorted to theft of Mr. Astley’s voice without a license and without agreement.”
The suit is relying on legal precedent from a 1988 federal court ruling, in which Bette Midler sued the Ford Motor Co. (and won) for a series of commercials using a singer who imitated her voice, even though clearance had been obtained for the underlying song.
READ MORE: Rick Astley Makes The Ultimate ‘RickTok’ Debut On TikTok
“Mr. Astley owns his voice. California law is clear since the Bette Midler case more than 30 years ago that nobody has the right to imitate or use it without his permission,” said Astley’s attorney, Richard Busch, in a statement.
The suit also alleges that Yung Gravy violated federal trademark law by “making false statements that made it appear that the singer had endorsed the new song” in an interview with Billboard, in which the rapper claimed that he’d spoken with Astley, who “f**ks with the song” and gave his approval.
“These statements were all false,” Astley’s lawsuit states.
Representatives for Yung Gravy (whose real name Matthew Hauri) and Universal Music Group’s Republic Records (the rapper’s label, which is also a defendant in the suit) didn’t respond to Billboard‘s request for comment.