Afeni Shakur sued Entertainment One and Death Row Acquisition LLC on Wednesday in Superior Court.
She claims Entertainment One avoided paying her royalties for more than four years and refused to return masters of unreleased recordings, including several recordings where he performs on other artists’ songs.
She filed the same claims in Federal Court this year, but says she learned this month that an Entertainment One partner is based in Delaware, eliminating “complete diversity and, therefore, the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction.”
Afeni Shakur was appointed administrator of her son’s estate after he died at 25 from multiple gunshot wounds in a 1996 drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. She created co-plaintiff Amaru Entertainment to manage her son’s copyrights, trademarks and intellectual property.
Tupac signed a contract with Death Row Records for three albums, his mother says in the lawsuit, and released his first long-play recording on the label, “All Eyez on Me,” the year he died.
Under a 1997 settlement agreement with Death Row, Afeni Shakur says, the estate secured all rights to Tupac’s Death Row master recordings and audiovisual works. The estate agreed to accept a payment from Death Row within 60 days of the 10-year anniversary of the agreement for one album featuring unreleased Tupac recordings, his mother claims. She says that royalties from past and future Tupac releases were included in the agreement.
“Although DRR [Death Row Records] retained physical possession of the unreleased Tupac material, it had no ownership rights in and no right to sell, license, or otherwise exploit any of the recordings or underlying compositions therein, and plaintiffs are the exclusive owners of all intellectual property rights with respect to the unreleased Tupac material,” the 11-page lawsuit states.
But in 2003, Death Row entered into a 10-year distribution deal for Tupac’s recordings with Koch Entertainment, according to the complaint.
Under that agreement, Koch was barred from assigning distribution rights to any other party without Afeni Shakur’s approval, “unless the assignment was part of an assignment, public offering, or private placement of substantially all of Koch’s assets,” the lawsuit states.
After the hip-hop label filed for bankruptcy in 2006, a trustee exercised the option on the album of unreleased Tupac songs, and paid $100,000 to the estate, according to the complaint.
That album “Beginnings: The Lost Tapes” was posthumously released in 2007, according to celebrity news website TMZ.
Three years later, Death Row was sold for $100 million to entertainment development company WideAwake Death Row Entertainment. The acquisition included Tupac’s 1995 handwritten contract, the estate’s agreement with the label, and the 2003 distribution agreement with Koch, which became E1 Entertainment, and is now known as defendant Entertainment One, Afeni Shakur says.
She claims she has given Entertainment One a 29-page audit breaking down how much it owes, but the company is holding the money “hostage,” and refuses to deliver the master recordings.
After she filed the federal lawsuit, Shakur says, she learned that Entertainment One had acquired Death Row Records’ assets, including the settlement agreement with the estate, from WideAwake Death Row.
She seeks an injunction, an accounting, and damages for breach of contract, breach of faith and unfair competition.
She is represented by Stephen Rothschild with King, Holmes, Paterno & Berliner.
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