Written By: Ben Feilich
Hip hop artist Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., is suing his record label, Cash Money Records, Inc., in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York for breach of contract, among other things, alleging damages in the amount of $51,000,000 (fifty-one million).
The complaint entails eight causes of action by Lil Wayne against Cash Money including disputes over accounting, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion by improper copyright registration, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract. It is worthy to note, this lawsuit does not include copyright infringement. The copyright issue contained therein is that Cash Money filed for federal copyright registration alone, failing to include Lil Wayne or his label, Young Money, as a joint owner and copyright claimant of the works. Lil Wayne’s label agreement and recording agreement with Cash Money allegedly called for joint copyright ownership over all recordings made during the term of the agreements.
Primarily, the complaint alleges that Cash Money had withheld royalties from Lil Wayne, including payments owed through exploitation of Lil Wayne’s newest (and, at the time of writing this article, unreleased) record Tha Carter V. In possible response to the fall-out between Lil Wayne and Cash Money, Lil Wayne announced via Twitter that a free album would be made available. There is some ambiguity, however, as to whether the album Lil Wayne wishes to release to the public for free is Tha Carter V or a separate record entitled The Free Weezy Album.
Sources close to Lil Wayne have revealed that Cash Money owes Lil Wayne $10 million for Lil Wayne’s work on Tha Carter V– $8 million in advance and $2 million upon completion. Lil Wayne claims he can hold Tha Carter V’s release hostage until Cash Money pays the allegedly owed $10 million.
There are interesting contracts and copyright issues at play here. As a joint copyright owner over Tha Carter V, Lil Wayne would be able to exploit the works without the consent of Cash Money, unless there is some agreement or contract term stating otherwise. If no such agreement exists, Lil Wayne may be able to release Tha Carter V for free, or license it non-exclusively, with his only obligation being to report and deliver to Cash Money profits earned through licensing or use of the record. However, Lil Wayne was not a named author in the copyright registration of Tha Carter V, and other works, despite Cash Money’s contractual duty to do so. To remedy this situation, Cash Money simply needs to file for supplementary copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office in accordance with 17 U.S.C. § 408(d), adding Lil Wayne’s name as an “amplification” of information to the original copyright registration filing.
It does not seem that even full compensation of moneys allegedly owed by Cash Money to Lil Wayne will fix the relationship between the two parties as Lil Wayne has publicly exclaimed his dissatisfaction with the label, often citing professional and creative stifling.
To keep fans satisfied until The Carter V’s uncertain release, Lil Wayne put out Sorry 4 The Wait 2, a mix-tape featuring Drake, Nicki Minaj, and 2 Chainz, on January 20.
BLOGGER BIO: Ben is a Staff Member of the Journal of High Technology Law. He is currently a 3L at Suffolk Law with a concentration in Intellectual Property. He holds a B.A. in Literature from Florida State University and was born in Hollywood, FL. Ben currently resides in Allston, MA with two cats named after Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductees.