Members of rap provocateurs 2 Live Crew are facing a legal battle from a small record label to try to regain control of their catalog, in the music industry’s latest battle over the so-called right termination of copyright law.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Lil Joe Records Inc. asked a federal court in Florida to rule that 2 Live Crew is not permitted to use the right of rescission – a provision that allows creators to regain ownership of their works. decades after selling them.
2 Live Crew is just the latest musical act to be embroiled in a layoff battle. Cher and KC and The Sunshine Band recently launched such lawsuits, and major record labels are facing class action lawsuits from huge groups of artists who want their masters back.
In Thursday’s lawsuit, Lil Joe said he bought 2 Live Crew’s catalog when the band’s former label, Luke Records Inc., went bankrupt in 1995. The deal included both publishing rights and the masters, as well as the trademarks registered in the name of the group.
The current dispute began in November 2020, when the band members informed Lil Joe that they planned to invoke the termination clause and regain control of their music. The notice was filed by surviving members Luther Campbell and Mark Ross, as well as the heirs of late member Christopher Wong Won.
Simply put, Lil Joe’s lawsuit asks a federal judge to rule that 2 Live Crew is ineligible to use the termination clause. Among other arguments, the label claims that the band failed to file proper notices and that certain aspects of bankruptcy law trump the right of termination.
Most notably, Lil Joe plans to argue that 2 Live Crew’s music was created as a so-called work-for-hire on behalf of their record label – meaning the band never owned any rights to their music first. This is an argument that could come into play in future termination battles between artists and labels.
2 Live Crew’s notice of termination was sent to Lil Joe by attorney Scott Burroughs of Doniger/Burroughs, who did not immediately return a request for comment Friday morning.