Monday, February 22, 2010


NYLJ 5-25-07


1. It’s an old story, dating back to the dawn of popular music, you could say. The first time a Tin Pan Alley tunesmith was asked to seel all the rights to his song for a month’s rent, it was with the knowledge, even as he scribbles his name on the page, that somebody was getting the mother of all bargains. Nary a con as the creator always knows that their work was of immense value, if only to them. That would be criminal. But a swindle? That isn’t quite right. If the scienter of mens rea proves the aforesaid, no matter how much the artist claims it was under duress and desperation, you won’t get any coercion charge to stick. Outside of being underage, drunk, or with a gun to your head (cf. the offer you can’t refuse).

So take your average ghetto youth from da Bronx, making the choice between the fast and dangerous life of a street thug/crack dealer and that and a teller of those tales, a hardcore gangsta rapper (and DJ, better to own the whole shop than share the profits, a true capitalist at heart). The contract is with a company called BBE—Barely Break Even, which should tell you a lot already. But that’s part of the ethic, no?

The plaintiff, not to be further coy, is Pete Rock, a “name” in the biz, nowhere in the Snoop/Jay-Z/50cent league, but respectable enough for a rep. in 2002, he signed on the dotted line to produce “no less than 10 newly recorded and previously unreleased tracks of no less than 60 minutes of master recordings.” That the minimum was not compared with a maximum was not of any significance at the time and it would be these master recordings which would become “Soul Survivor II”.

So it’s not “Get Rich Or Die Trying”, but neither is it Vanilla Ice. And decent sales are enough to have BBE come back to him (along with their new partner, Studio, a distributor) and seek permission to release all the rest of his recorded material. Now, as to whether the G is being sincere in saying they ain’t ready for air time, or is just cagy enough to want a new deal, it matters little. You’d think that the world’s shortest sentence would suffice. That they went ahead and dropped a 2nd plate of 15 tracks from those sessions, should have been enough of a breach of contract to put a chill on them, like a preliminary injunction at least.

Except our G was from Da Bronx, remember?

It is so standard that almost no one notice the Forum Selection clause for the ejudication of disputes, but, seeing as how BBE was a London-based posse, they chose the home turf avantage. So when it comes down to his claim of being “lord and master” over where he sues the defendants, the US Court of Appeals suggests that the rapper’s ego is “like an inflated balloon,” and may “suffer a considerable loss of altitude’—and attitude—when it comes down to earth where the forum is. “The contract clause is mandatory, not permissive,” was the SDNY verdict that brought it up to the C of A. Which should be the only bad news in this: if it sounds in Breach of Contract, the iron-clad ruling on the rest should only re-enforce the other provisions. That his suit also included direct and contributory copyright infringement and alternative state law claims for unjust enrichment and unfair competition was tossed across the pond. Because…yeah, there was nothing in the original paper that said anything about “Soul Survivor III”.

It is, then, sort of weird that the rapper’s mouthpiece would say, due to the expense (huh?) and difficulty of subpoena-ing witnesses (double that huh?), it was unlikely they would initiate the breach suit in England. Which all is a classic case of not only READ THE FINE PRINT, but EVERYTHING ELSE TOO!

No comments:

Post a Comment