Ghostface Killah Sues Universal Music, Hits Back At 'Iron Man' Composer

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Ghostface Killah is making a renewed effort to collect full royalties for his work as a member of the Wu Tang Clan, at the same time he's fending off a lawsuit brought by a Hollywood composer who objects to the way the hip hop artist sampled the "Iron Man Theme" for a 2000 solo album.

On Wednesday, Killah (real name: Dennis Coles) filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Group for allegedly violating a contract. The rapper claims that UMG only holds a 25% stake in Wu Tang Clan songs, not a 50% copyright interest as has been asserted. Killah is suing to recover royalties being held by the music giant.

This isn't the first time that Killah has gone to the legal mat with claims of being stiffed on the royalty front.

In 2005, Killah sued Wu Tang Productions and its leader, RZA after he received smaller-than-expected royalty payments. Four years later, Killah got the judgment he wanted when a New York judge held that WTP wasn't entitled to a 25% withholding and RZA wasn't entitled to a 50% withholding for contributing the beats. The judge also found that WTP hadn't transfered its entire interest in the Wu Tang Clan's works to BMG Music Publishing, bought by UMG in 2007.

An appellate court later modified the decision to allow WTP to continue making its deduction, and when Killah followed up his original lawsuit with another one claiming royalties after June 2007, a judge ruled that it was premature to apply the same damages calculation as the earlier lawsuit.

Killah is now turning his attention to UMG with claims based in part on the decision in the original 2005 lawsuit.

Meanwhile, as we previously covered, the rapper along with Sony Music are being sued by Jack Urbont, a veteran Hollywood composer whose work included the "Iron Man Theme" originally created for the 1960s television show, The Marvel Super Heroes.

Urbont objected to both the sampling and the fact that Killah has given himself a secondary nickname, Tony Starks, playing off the name 'Tony Stark,' Iron Man's real name and true identity.

On Friday, the defendants gave reasons why a federal judge should dismiss the lawsuit. They argue that Urbont's allegations are barred by statutes of limitations.

Specifically, the allegedly infringing Ghostface Killah album, "Supreme Clientele," came out in 2000 with much fanfare and press, so the defendants want to know how Urbont, who purportedly acts diligently to protect his rights from infringement, failed to learn about songs in question until just recently. Being an octogenarian without a fondness for hip hop isn't a proper excuse against objecting in a timely manner, they say.


Twitter: @eriqgardner