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Rapper and music producer Dr. Dre has filed a lawsuit in bankruptcy court against defunct label Death Row Records over who owns the rights to the 1992 album “The Chronic.”
Dr. Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, alleges in the suit filed Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles that he owns the copyrights to the album, which features hits like “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.” And he isn’t taking kindly to the possibility that Death Row and the court-appointed bankruptcy administrator will try to sell the rights.
The lawsuit asserts that Dr. Dre created, produced and was the principal performer on all master recordings for “The Chronic.”
Sometime around the fall of 1992, Dr. Dre granted Death Row a license to distribute the album in exchange for payment of royalties. The album was released on the Death Row label in November of that year. Around March 1996, Dr. Dre agreed to relinquish his 50% ownership interest in Death Row Records as specified in a written agreement. Also under that 1996 agreement, he agreed to hand over copyrights to the album on the condition he continue receiving royalties.
According to the suit, while Dr. Dre has held up his end of the bargain, Death Row has failed to pay the royalties. As a result, Dr. Dre gave Death Row Records notice in 2000 that he was rescinding the agreements and demanding return of the copyrights.
Based on that move, Dr. Dre asserts in the lawsuit that he is again the rightful owner of the copyrights and that the defendants — Death Row and the Chapter 11 trustee administering the bankruptcy case — have infringed on his rights by continuing to distribute the album without the rapper’s authorization.
According to the lawsuit, Dr. Dre believes that the Chapter 11 trustee intends to sell the copyrights and in the past month has solicited bids from potential buyers.
Dr. Dre is asking the bankruptcy court to declare that the 1992 and 1996 agreements have been rescinded and compel Death Row and the trustee to restore the copyrights to him. He’s also asking that the label and trustee be made to pay him restitution for all revenue Death Row received from its use of the copyrights.
The rapper also wants the court to issue a permanent injunction that would bar the defendants from offering the copyrights for sale without his written consent.
“If not enjoined, the trustee will proceed to accept a bid, and seek bankruptcy court approval to sell the copyrights accordingly,” the lawsuit states.
Death Row Records produced a string of hit records in the 1990s from such performers as Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. But the label struggled when owner Marion “Suge” Knight was sent to prison for assault and weapons violations. He was released in 2001, then served 10 more months for violating parole. Knight recently put his Malibu mansion up for sale for $6.2 million.
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