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Chuck D files lawsuit in music publisher dispute

By | Published on Wednesday 16 October 2019

Public Enemy

Chuck D has sued his publisher Reach Global Music, accusing the firm of having falsely registered works with the US Copyright Office as being owned by a joint venture company rather than the rapper in his own right.

TMZ reported back in August that the Public Enemy founder was going legal in a dispute with his long time music publishing partner. A lawsuit was filed with Californian courts yesterday outlining the key elements of the dispute.

The defendants in the case are Reach Global and its owner Michael Closter. Chuck D has been working with Closter on his publishing rights since 2001, the two men having formed a business partnership in that year after the rapper had managed to re-acquire some of the song rights in his earlier work. The partnership that was set up would administer both those rights and the song rights in Chuck D’s subsequent output.

The lawsuit explains how this was achieved through the creation of a business called Terrordome Music Publishing, in which both Reach Global and Chuck D’s company Bring The Noize Music Inc were shareholders. A third shareholder in the venture was subsequently bought out, so that ownership of that publishing venture is now split between Reach Global (42%) and BTNM (58%).

There are seemingly two key disputes between Chuck D and Closter. The first is whether or not the intent back in 2001 was that Terrordome would actually own the rights in Chuck D’s compositions, or whether it would administrate them on his behalf. The second relates to works created since 2012, which the rapper argues are outside the 2001 deal.

However, it’s alleged, Closter has continued to register Chuck D’s music with the US Copyright Office as being owned – and not just administered – by Terrordome.

The lawsuit states: “With full knowledge that he had no right to do so, after 31 Dec 2012, Closter, without authority or permission from [Chuck D], registered the copyrights in the stolen compositions in the name of Terrordome with the United States Copyright Office, falsely claiming and certifying that Terrordome had acquired the right to do so by written agreement”.

“The effect”, it goes on, “is that Reach Global, by virtue of its 42% interest in Terrordome, now reaps the illicit profits of which [Chuck D] has been deprived. Reach Global is also able to profit from the administration of the stolen compositions for the entire term of the copyrights”.

To that end, the lawsuit requests that the court first confirm that Chuck D is the sole owner of the post-2012 works, and then force Reach Global to delete its copyright registrations in relation to those works and pay any monies it has received from them since they were published. And, of course, pay some nice damages along the way.

We await a response from Closter and his companies.