Post Malone must stand trial in a copyright lawsuit that claims he failed to credit a co-writer of his smash-hit “Circles,” a California federal judge ruled Monday (April 18).
In a 28-page decision, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright ruled that producer and songwriter Tyler Armes might ultimately be able to prove his allegation that he played a key role during an August 2018 studio session and deserves co-credit for an early song that later became “Circles.”
Seeking to have the case tossed out ahead of trial, Malone and producer Frank Dukes had argued that only they had “veto power” during the three-man session with Armes, but the judge seemed skeptical of that assertion in Monday’s decision.
“While Dukes may have controlled the laptop, nothing suggests that he or Post possessed any special veto or decision-making power that Armes did not,” Judge Wright wrote. “Armes’s evidence, if credited, supports the finding that the three musicians shared equal control in the session, making nonhierarchical contributions to a unitary whole.”
Monday’s ruling only applies to an unfinished “session” song and not to the final “commercial” version of “Circles” that spent three weeks atop the Hot 100 in 2019. Judge Wright said it was clear that Armes was not involved in the final cut of the song. But that early version formed the basis for that final cut, and a verdict that Armes owns part of the session track would still entitle him to substantial royalties from “Circles.”
Armes, a Canadian producer and songwriter best-known for his work in the band Down with Webster, says he co-wrote chords and a bass line that would ultimately become part of “Circles.” When he first heard the final song, Armes says he texted Dre London, Malone’s manager, who responded: “Just showed Posty the message/ He said he remembers/ U played a tune on the bass then he played more of it after.” Though he was offered a 5% credit on the song, he demanded more and eventually filed his lawsuit in April 2020.
Monday’s ruling paves the way for the case to head to a trial, where both sides will present their evidence about who really deserves credit as a co-writer. Before the decision, a trial date had been set for May 17 in Los Angeles federal court. The two sides are currently fighting over whether the trial should be decided by a jury (as demanded by Armes) or simply by Judge Wright (as requested by Malone).
Ahead of the decision, Malone also argued that Armes could not prove that the star intended to co-write the song with him – another crucial factor in proving co-authorship. But Judge Wright said there was actually “ample evidence” in the accuser’s favor.
“In a greenroom following Post’s performance, the day before the August 8 Session, London informed Post that Armes was ‘an awesome musician’ and that he was going back to the studio with Post to work with him,” the judge wrote. “Post responded, ‘Awesome, man, let’s write a tune, awesome, f*** yeah.”
Neither side’s attorneys immediately returned requests for comment on Monday.
Read the full ruling here: