Hollywood Docket: Iggy Azalea's Ex; Twitter's Celebrities; Kanye West's 'Gold Digger'

Former boyfriends, dead celebrities and widows: A roundup of entertainment law developments
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Iggy Azalea is now facing counterclaims that look to hold valid a recording contract that she allegedly signed before she became a famous pop star.

In September, the artist born Amethyst Kelly filed a complaint alleging that her ex-boyfriend Maurice Williams (aka rapper Hefe Wine) and associated companies were releasing songs by Azalea, but that they had no actual rights. According to the complaint, Azalea met Williams when she was a teen living in a Houston hotel, and Williams followed her to Atlanta and downloaded the entire contents of Azalea's personal computer, including unreleased master recordings.

Williams has apparently come forward with a written contract, but according to Azalea's lawsuit, it's a forgery.

On Tuesday, the defendants filed a cross-complaint that basically asks the judge to declare they have a right to exploit the Azalea compositions. The legal papers don't really shift the nature of the dispute — besides dragging Universal Music Group and Sony/ATV Music Publishing into the fight — but the court papers do attack the lawsuit's claim of forgery as "self serving and hypocritical."

Azalea's lawyer had no comment.

In other entertainment law news:

  • The management company handling the publicity rights of famed dead actor James Dean has backed off on a lawsuit against Twitter for refusing to do anything about the anonymous individual who has registered @JamesDean. The case never got far, and Twitter never was forced to explain why it has a rule against impersonation, but not when it comes to dead celebrities. With little action in the case, the judge ordered the plaintiff to show why it shouldn't be dismissed, and instead of giving those reasons, the plaintiff elected to have it dismissed without prejudice.
  • Lawsuits brought over an allegedly unauthorized sample of Lorenzo Pryor's voice from a song titled "Bumpin' Bus Stop" in Kanye West's mega-hit track "Gold Digger" have come to an end. The owners of the sampled recording brought a copyright lawsuit against West and virtually everyone in the entertainment industry who touched and distributed the song. In August, though, U.S. District Judge Beverly O'Connell doubted the originality of copied short phrases like "Get Down," "Step Up" and "It's the Hottest Thing," and further ruled that the defendants' use of the sound recordings was de minimis. Since then, the lawsuits have been drawing to a close. Most recently, superstar producer DJ A-Trak agreed to a stipulated dismissal with his attorney telling THR that he's pleased with the outcome.
  • Another legal battle over the TV show Hawaii Five-0 is also officially over. The lawsuit was brought by George Litto, former agent of the show's late creator, Leonard Freeman, who alleged that Freeman's heirs had cut him out of the rebooted CBS series. The lawsuit brought counterclaims that alleged that Litto had taken advantage of Freeman's widow when the two had teamed up in earlier disputes with CBS and made a joint venture to exploit future production opportunities. In May, the Freeman side scored a big win in the case, but there was still some issues left unresolved. On Tuesday, the parties told the judge they had reached a settlement. Terms weren't revealed.
  • Speaking of widows, the one who was married to George R. Hearst Jr., grandson of William Randolph Hearst and former director at the Hearst Corporation, can't get around agreements to claim a bigger share of Hearst assets. Susan Hearst didn't have a prenuptial agreement, but in 2002, she entered into a marital property agreement in which she agreed to waive her interests in exchange for $10 million in cash and a life estate in certain real estate property. After George died in 2012, she filed claims against the estate seeking half of the community property in the estate. After mediation, the parties arrived at a $550,000 settlement, but a week after signing the agreement, her attorneys advised that the settlement should be rescinded. On Tuesday, a California appeals court affirmed a lower court's decision that the deal was valid and binding.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner

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