By: Jake Shapiro
Artists have recently discussed the consequences of not owning their masters, which results in a lack of control of the music they created. This is the result of certain provisions in a recording agreement, and it is unlikely that these provisions go away despite efforts by artists to negotiate more favorable deals. This type of provision played a large role in a lawsuit where 50 Cent sued Rick Ross for Rick Ross’s sampling of a portion of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” hit. Because 50 Cent’s recording agreement with Shady/Aftermath records left him without any copyright ownership in his masters, 50 Cent had to sue based on a state right-of-publicity theory since the record label had the exclusive right to enforce or not enforce the copyright ownership. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Rick Ross under the doctrine of implied and express preemption as federal copyright law preempted 50 Cent’s state right-of-publicity claim in this case. I use this result to show provisions in a recording agreement can impact litigation. I then explain how artists should negotiate more favorable provisions to give them the right to sue when their record label decided to tolerate infringement and not take legal action.