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Lil Wayne's Lawsuit Against Universal Music Group Put On Hold

Lil Wayne
Courtesy of Universal Music Group

Lil Wayne

A federal judge wants Wayne to resolve his suit against Cash Money Records first.

Reports emerged this week that Lil Wayne's lawsuit in a California federal district court against Universal Music Group (UMG) and SoundExchange will be put on hold until the resolution of his lawsuit against Birdman and Cash Money Records in a New York federal district court is resolved. The suits both involve unpaid royalties, with the California judge ruling that the Cash Money case should move forward first.

Back in December 2014, Wayne suddenly sued his longtime record label for at least $51 million in damages, alleging that Cash Money only paid him $2 million of the $10 million it owed him for recording and delivering the long-delayed Carter V album, and that Wayne had not been registered as a co-owner of the sound recordings included on his 2013 album I Am Not a Human Being II, as well as several other accounting irregularities. There has been little movement in the suit since, and Wayne recently called off settlement talks, with the apparent intention of taking Birdman and Cash Money to court.

The rapper's suit against UMG, which has been Cash Money's distributor since a landmark 1998 distribution deal brought the regional rap label to mainstream prominence, alleges that the major has been redirecting royalties due to Wayne in order to pay back its own $100 million advance to Cash Money, of which $60 million is un-recouped, according to court documents.

Filed in March, Wayne is seeking at least $40 million in damages over those royalties, which derive from his interests in Young Money and role in discovering and signing Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga. The report this week revises the damages being sought to $20 million. Reps for Cash Money and Lil Wayne did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

While initially appearing like a setback, the ruling is fairly common when lawsuits pertaining to similar contracts are being disputed simultaneously. In both cases, the contracts between Wayne and Cash Money, Wayne's imprint Young Money and Cash Money, and the broader contract between Cash Money and Universal are dissected to establish the royalty claims, making for fascinating reading but a potentially tangled legal proceeding. 

For example, Kesha's initial lawsuit against Dr. Luke over sexual and emotional abuse, which sought to void her contracts with Luke, was initially brought in California; a suit filed by Luke alleging breach of contract and defamation in New York was allowed to proceed first, due to forum stipulations that determined all contractual issues be litigated in New York. In that case, the California judge put Kesha's initial lawsuit on hold until the conclusion of the contractual dispute, after which it would be able to hear the abuse claims. The California lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice Monday (Aug. 1).


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