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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Film Execs Can Sue Lil’ Wayne Over Bad Buzz

(CN) - Rapper Lil' Wayne could be liable for refusing to do interviews about his documentary as he was facing weapons and drug charges in 2009, a California appeals court ruled.

Digerati Holdings released documentary film "The Carter" in 2009. The film's title hearkens to the name of about half of Wayne's albums; he released the cover of "Tha Carter IV" last week.

Wayne's documentary reached the iTunes Top 10 and was called "one of the top-five greatest hip-hop documentaries of all time" by Brandon Perkins of the Huffington Post.

Celebration, however, was short-lived. Lil' Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., and his company, Young Money Entertainment, sued the producer for breach of contract after the documentary screened at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Wayne claimed that Digerati had failed to give him approval of the final cut of the film, as was stipulated in the contract.

This was important, the rapper claimed, so the film would not depict him in a way that would hurt him in his criminal court proceedings. Wayne was arrested twice, in July 2007 and January 2008, on weapons and drug charges and ultimately served eight months in prison in 2010. He is currently serving three years probation.

As he was appearing in court on the charges in 2009, however, Wayne sought an injunction to stop the movie from being shown elsewhere.

Digerati countersued, claiming that the rapper had breached his contract by not making himself available to for press interviews.

The producer claimed it had to rely on footage from Wayne's prior interviews and that the rapper's public complaints about the documentary prevented it from landing a distributor.

Wayne tried to stop the countersuit with a motion under Califorinia's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law. The trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Both sides appealed, but the Los Angeles-based appeals court upheld the decision.

"Young Money and Carter do not argue and have not shown that the conduct [Digerati] alleged ... was in furtherance of their constitutional right of petition or free speech within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute," Justice Walter Croskey wrote on behalf of the court.

Tuesday's ruling was not a total loss for Wayne, however, as he was able to strike the breach-of-implied-contract claim. Croskey found that litigation privilege protected the "Lollipop" rapper's statements about an upcoming lawsuit against Digerati.

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