MANHATTAN (CN) – Rapper Ja Rule and music producer Irv Gotti say a copyright administrator falsely claimed to be in charge of their international copyrights to “secretly” siphon royalties from the rapper’s 2001 album, “Pain Is Love.”
Ja Rule (Jeffrey Atkins) and Irv Gotti (Irving Lorenzo) claim in Federal Court that Rich Kid Music and Rhondo Robinson signed a deal in 2002 with Universal Music Group Canada to swipe their royalties from record sales in Canada and Europe.
Rapper DMX sued Rich Kid and Robinson in April 2010, claiming they had stolen $500,000 in royalties over 10 years. DMX said he hired the company to administer his copyrights, and it used his history of switching labels and frequent stints in jail to hide the theft.
Anthony Cruz, a rapper known by his last name, sued Rich Kid on similar claims in October 2010.
Lorenzo and Atkins – who is serving a 2-year sentence in state prison for carrying a loaded gun in the Upper West Side – claim they had no idea Rich Kid even existed, and that it had no part in a copyright agreement.
They say they found out about the scheme in November 2010, when their attorney asked Universal for records “in connection with an unrelated matter on behalf of another client.”
Atkins and Lorenzo are represented by Jon Jekielek, with Jekielek & Janis. Jekielek also represented DMX and Cruz in their cases against Rich Kid.
Atkins and Lorenzo say they are still “in the dark” about the extent of the scheme, since they know only about Rich Kid’s dealings with Universal.
Rich Kid allegedly told Universal that it was copyright administrator for a company called Star 5 Music, which it said owned the rights to the album. But Atkins and Lorenzo say they are the owners of both the writers’ and the publishers’ share of royalties for each song on the album.
Ja Rule says that Rich Kid and Robinson collected $75,000 in royalties for four of the album’s singles: “Lost Little Girl,” “Worldwide Gangsta,” “Down Ass Bitch” and Shakin’ and Ridin.'”
Atkins and Lorenzo say they demanded their royalties from Rich Kid in February, but the company refused to cough up any money or fill the musicians in on any details.
They claim Rich Kid also lied to “numerous” record labels and royalty societies about its affiliation with Atkins and Lorenzo
The musicians seek at least $57,000 in royalties, plus $150,000 in punitive damages for fraud and conversion.
Ja Rule is a Grammy-nominated rapper known for collaborations with high-profile artists like Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti. Along with Jay-Z and DMX, he was one of the first three artists signed to the rap label Murder Inc., which was run by Irv Gotti.