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DJ Snake and Lil Jon Sued for Copyright Infringement Over "Turn Down for What"

The suit alleges the duo’s 2013 hit infringed upon South Carolina rapper Freddie GZ's song of the same name.

by Krystal Rodriguez
May 8 2017, 1:24pm

DJ Snake (L) and Lil Jon (R).

A copyright lawsuit involving DJ Snake and Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" was filed yesterday, May 4, by publishing company Golden Crown. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the publishers allege that the duo's hit copied South Carolina rapper Freddie GZ's track of the same name.

According to the court documents, an artist collective known as "The Architectz"—comprising Freddie GZ (born Fredley Sautel) and his partners, Martiononthebeat and Mr. Bonjean—came up with the idea to record a song featuring the phrase "turn down for what" in 2012. Sautel released the track on March 9, 2013, after which, the suit argues, it garnered a national presence on streaming platforms, and also received social media recognition from popular radio personality Charlamagne tha God.

DJ Snake and Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" was released on Columbia Records in December of that same year, and was certified gold (meaning more than 500 thousand units were sold) within three months. Its viral music video followed in March 2014, and at time of publishing has over 670 million views on YouTube. In addition to remixes involving major artists such as Juicy J, 2 Chainz, French Montana, Pitbull, and Ludacris, the track further engrained itself into the pop culture zeitgeist via usage in multiple films and television ads.

However, the document claims that DJ Snake and Lil Jon referenced the phrase in question on social media pre-dating their release, leading the plaintiff to believe they knew of Sautel's work. "The striking similarity between the Original Work and the Infringing Works ... when paired together with the timeline of events cannot be a coincidence," the suit states. "There is no possibility that the Infringing Works is a creature of independent creation."

Golden Crown is represented by lawyer Richard Busch, who famously won a case on behalf of Marvin Gaye's family in a similar copyright lawsuit against Robin Thicke's 2013 single "Blurred Lines." They are seeking monetary damages and a permanent injunction.

THUMP has reached out to DJ Snake's representatives for comment.

Listen to both "Turn Down for What" tracks below, then read THUMP's guide to music copyright.