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EDM superstar Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) has filed a lawsuit claiming tens of millions of dollars in damages over unauthorized remixes and mashups that he asserts have violated among other things, his moral rights.
The lawsuit filed on Monday in Ontario, Canada comes less than a week after a trial involving Jay Z introduced many to the concept how under some foreign laws, authors have the ability to protect the reputational value of their work. Coincidentally, Jay Z makes a cameo appearance in this new Deadmau5 lawsuit which targets Play Records, run by musician and voice actress Meleny “Melleefresh” Brown.
According to the statement of claim (read here), when Deadmau5 was just getting off the ground as an artist in 2006, he was engaged to do two remixes for Brown. Later, he signed music publishing and personal management agreements with her company.
By 2007, Deadmau5 had relocated to London and hooked up with a different management firm, which was part of an entertainment group that later joined forces with Jay Z’s Roc Nation. There, Deadmau5 experienced growing success and so he decided to sever ties with Brown. The price of doing so, after a dispute erupted, was Deadmau5 paying a sum of money and assigning Play Records ownership of his early recordings and compositions including his first hit, “Faxing Berlin.”
The settlement agreement is said in the new lawsuit to have outlined how Brown’s company could use those works. Specifically, it’s alleged that the agreement required Deadmau5’s “prior written consent” for any “new” remix entailing the change of melody and/or lyrics. Further, the lawsuit states “the Settlement Agreement expressly provided that Zimmerman did not waive his moral rights with respect to any so-called future remixes — if any were to be made — because by definition any future remix had not been created yet. Thus, Zimmerman would have no way of knowing in advance whether they were objectionable or whether he would want his name disassociated with them; i.e. in order to protect his right of paternity to remain anonymous and not be associated with them.”
Now, six years later after the settlement came, Play Records has allegedly released sound recordings of remixes of Deadmau5’s early work without his approval and “not of good technical and commercial quality.” The defendant is also said to be preparing releases of other remixes and mashups.
Deadmau5 has now filed a lawsuit over this and is asserting breach of contract, infringement of moral rights and trademark claims. The latter comes because the defendant is described as using registered designs and other marks of Deadmau5’s, passing off works as his own and marketing old recordings as new ones. The EDM superstar is demanding $10 million in damages on each cause of action.
The defendant wasn’t immediately available for comment.
In the United States, artists only have limited moral rights — mostly pertaining to works of visual art. Perhaps the most famous moral rights case involved a lawsuit that cast members of the Monty Python comedy troupe brought against ABC in the 1970s over a plan to broadcast an altered version of their television show. They got an injunction. Other countries have more extensive forms of moral rights as Jay Z learned when facing claims from the nephew of an Egyptian composer over a sample in the hit, “Big Pimpin‘.” Last week, Jay Z prevailed in that case when it was determined that the Egyptians had signed away their rights and lacked standing. Had the case occurred in Canada, where moral rights are more generous, the outcome might have been different.
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