Artistes, recorded music
Regular readers will no doubt have noticed recent articles featuring claims from Lil Wayne that he is owed tens of millions of dollars for discovering and nurturing successful recording artists Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga – but that this money has been unlawfully retained
by Universal Music Group according to a federal lawsuit filed by the rapper-producer’s attorneys Monday in California.
SoundExchange, the not for profit CMO that collects and distributes digital performance royalties on behalf of copyright owners, is also named as a defendant in the suit.
Lil Wayne (Dwayne Carter Jr.) claims Universal diverted tens of millions of dollars of his profits to repay itself for the $100 million it advanced to Cash Money Records Inc. Carter’s Young Money Label is a joint venture with Universal’s Cash Money Records, designed to manufacture, distribute, promote and exploit performances of new recording artists discovered by Carter and signed to the label. Carter claims that Universal and non party Cash Money entered into a series of agreements which, among other things, diverted his “substantial” profits – to repay Cash Money’s debts.
According to the complaint:
“With Universal’s knowledge of Lil Wayne’s rights to partial ownership and profits from those artists, Universal and Cash Money entered into a series of agreements which, among other things, diverted Lil Wayne’s substantial profits to repay debts of Cash Money,” and “As a result, 100% of the profits that should have been paid to Lil Wayne as a result of his ownership of Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga records have been seized by Universal to repay debts that were neither incurred by nor were the obligations of Lil Wayne.”
Carter claims their 2003 agreement states the label’s profits “would be divided 51%-49% between Cash Money and Carter, and ownership of all the Young Money Label property, (e.g., master recordings, copyrights, intellectual property, good will) similarly would be owned 51%-49% between Cash Money and Carter, respectively.”
Carter’s attorney Howard King said: “Universal should be grateful and respectful to Lil Wayne for the millions of dollars in distribution fees and profits they have earned on the artists he brought to the company, instead of seizing all of his profits on those artists in a desperate attempt to recoup the tens of millions of dollars they are owed by Cash Money Records,”
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesman for Universal Music Group says the claims are entirely without merit.
Carter is seeking at least $40 million in damages and disgorged profits and a “judgment declaring the parties’ respective rights with regard to Plaintiffs’ share of label performance royalties.” This follows a $51 million lawsuit Carter filed against Cash Money last year, which is currently pending in Louisiana federal court.