Rapper Ghostface Killah Loses Copyright Lawsuit Due to Default Judgment - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Rapper Ghostface Killah Loses Copyright Lawsuit Due to Default Judgment

Rapper Ghostface Killah Loses Copyright Lawsuit Due to Default Judgment

Ghostface Killah, hip-hop artist known for being a member of legendary 1990’s rap collective The Wu-Tang Clan, as well as success from his solo-career, has remained true to his name and acted as a “ghost” in an ongoing copyright lawsuit.  Jack Urbont, creator of music for “The Marvel Super Heroes” television show from the 1960’s, has won a default judgment in three-year long copyright infringement against Killah (real name Dennis Coles) See, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0315932/bio.

The lawsuit stems from the sampling of Urbont’s “Iron Man Theme” on two tracks off of Ghostface’s second album entitled “Supreme Clientele.” Brought in 2011, the infringement suit has been drawn out for three years particularly due to the difficulties in locating the rapper.  According to The Hollywood Reporter, service of the complaint was delivered to his business manager, but even the efforts of a private investigator could not locate Ghostface to serve him with the original complaint. . Despite such extenuating circumstances, the judge eventually allowed the service of Ghostface via publication notice.

However, the procedural difficulties with the case would not end there. Apparently as discovery was about to close, the attorney for Ghostface requested permission to be withdrawn from the case as he had not been able to communicate from the rapper and was still awaiting payment, explained the Hollywood Reporter. Although the judge granted this motion and required Ghostface to find a new attorney, problems did not cease there, when the rapper failed to show up for a deposition. At that point, the judge warned the rapper about potential sanctions and a default judgment in the scenario he continually failed to cooperate. Nevertheless, the “ghost-like” rapper failed to reschedule a deposition and Urbont sought a default judgment, which was granted on November 13 by U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald.

Speaking on the result of the case, Urbont’s attorney Richard Busch detailed that the plaintiff is “pleased with the court’s decision and believe it to be correct and just.”  Next up for the plaintiff is the submitting of evidence to obtain damages.  Busch stated, “we will now submit evidence on damages to establish actual and statutory damages for willful infringement of Mr. Urbont’s composition, and to establish our entitlement to actual and punitive damages for the willful infringement of Mr. Urbont’s sound recording…” While the statutory damages from the case cannot amount to more than $150,000, Urbont’s claim is tied to a pre-1972 sound recording and is thus protected by state law.  Being that this is a hot legal topic of late, the calculation of damages for the default judgment will sure to be popular topic in the legal field.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, if the plaintiff gets a large amount, “it is a good possibility that he will attempt to collect by seeking a lien on Ghostface’s share of Wu-Tang royalties.”

Ironically enough, Ghostface will recreate himself as a vigilante superhero on his new concept album titled 36 Seasons, scheduled for release on December 9th through Salvation/Tommy Boy.  However, Killah will probably not feel like a “superhero” if he has to give up his share of Wu-Tang Royalties due to the default judgment.

Michael Barkoff

Michael Barkoff is a second-year student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of IPLJ.