"You can't be sued for a sample on a free mixtape" is one of the greatest myths in hip-hop history.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Abdul Wali Muhammad, a jazz musician, composer and bandleader formerly known as Eric P. Saunders, filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago against Chance The Rapper on Tuesday (September 12), accusing the multi-GRAMMY award winner of "blatant and willful infringement" of the copyrighted song, "Bridge Through Time" on "Windows," a song from Chance's freely-released debut mixtape, 10 Day.
10 Day, which was released in 2012 on SoundCloud and is currently available for free download and stream on various mixtape hosting platforms, has never been made available for physical or digital purchase, but earlier this year, the project was, according to Chance, "fraudulently put on iTunes and Apple Music." It was later removed.
Muhammad, who ironically now practices criminal and civil rights law in New York, claims he reached out to Chance's legal team in May about the infringement but that "Chance failed and refused to take any action to halt access to the infringing song."
Chance vs. Abdul Wali Muhammad is the latest in a long line of sample-related lawsuits—see Kendrick Lamar vs. Bill Withers over "I Do This" and Mac Miller vs. Lord Finesse over "Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza"—which stems from unauthorized usage of a copyrighted song on a track included on a free mixtape.