An appeals court ruled last week that the New Jersey artist isn't responsible for paying the publishing giant's legal fees in a previous case.
Announced at a New York appeals court on Wednesday, April 17th, the ruling is the latest twist in a saga dating back to November 2013, when Madonna and Pettibone won a lawsuit against VMG Salsoul (AKA Salsoul Records), which claimed that "Vogue" contained an illegal sample of The Salsoul Orchestra's 1976 track "Ooh, I Love It (Love Break)." The court dismissed the claim, stating that "any sampling of the horn hit was de minimis or trivial."
But after the decision was reached, another dispute erupted over whether Warner Music or Pettibone should cover the case's legal fees. In April 2017, Pettibone sued the publisher, claiming that they were withholding his royalty payments as compensation. In March 2018, a judge ruled against Pettibone, only for an appeals court to overturn the decision last week, stating that the disputed contract was "pock-marked with ambiguity." Warner Music must now repay Pettibone's withheld royalties, a sum reportedly worth almost $1 million.
"They have just kept his royalties that he relies on for years," Pettibone's lawyer, Richard Busch, told the Hollywood Reporter. "This is a truly sweet victory and will hopefully prevent others from trying to pull the same nonsense in the future."
Born in New Jersey in 1959, Pettibone has had a hand in numerous pop and commercial dance music classics, including "Vogue," First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder" and "Love Sensation" by Loleatta Holloway.
Listen to "Vogue."