Tupac Shakur's Mother Suing Over Royalties

7 REP Tupac Shakur
Dana Lixenberg/Corbis Outline

The singer was shot to death in 1995 at age 25.

Afeni Shakur is demanding more than $1.1 million in royalties from the exploitation of her son's work.

As the co-administrator of Tupac Shakur's estate, she filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in L.A. Superior Court against Entertainment One, reported to have purchased the catalog of Death Row Records earlier this year. The lawsuit, which also demands the defendant surrender master recordings containing unreleased Tupac material, is a follow-up from litigation that was filed earlier this year in federal court.

The legal dispute represents the latest in the rocky history of Death Row Records.

Tupac, one of the biggest hip-hop stars of the 1990s, signed to the label in 1995. A year later, while attending a boxing match in Las Vegas, he was shot dead.

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According to the latest lawsuit, Tupac's estate entered into a settlement agreement in 1997 with Death Row and its then-distributor Interscope Records that confirmed that the estate had exclusive ownership over unreleased master recordings and audiovisual work, that Death Row would be provided with one "album's worth" of material, and that the estate would receive royalties from future exploitation of released and unreleased Tupac material.

Death Row allegedly retained physical possession of unreleased material, but the lawsuit says "it had no ownership rights" in these works.

In 2003, Death Row is said to have entered into an agreement with eOne's predecessor-in-interest Koch Entertainment to be the exclusive distributor of three Tupac albums. Koch was to account for and pay royalties.

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Three years later, Death Row filed for bankruptcy and later emerged under new corporate ownership. First, there was a new company called WideAwake Death Row Entertainment, which became a defendant in a Shakur lawsuit. Now, there's eOne. The defendants are charged with breaching contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing by not making sufficient royalty payments.

Of note is the plaintiff's legal representation. The firm representing Shakur is King Holmes Paterno & Berliner, which has represented Dr. Dre in another fight over rights and royalties to that hip-hop star's work.

EOne spent approximately $280 million to acquire what it said was the "iconic music library assets" of Death Row Records, according to the company's financial report earlier this year. The company hasn't responded yet to the lawsuit.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner