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Ditto Music seeks dismissal of Lil Yachty NFT lawsuit on jurisdiction grounds

By | Published on Tuesday 7 June 2022

Lil Yachty

DIY distributor Ditto Music and its co-founder Lee Parsons have called for a lawsuit filed against them in the Californian courts by Lil Yachty to be dismissed on jurisdiction grounds. The litigation relates to the promotion of Opulous, the music NFT start-up also founded by Parsons.

The rapper – real name Miles McCollum – went legal in January claiming that Opulous had used his name and brand as part of launch communications, even though he had never agreed to get involved in the new venture. Ditto and Parsons were also defendants on that lawsuit on the basis that – as a sister company to and founder of Opulous respectively – they had posted about those launch communications on their social media channels.

Opulous is a platform that encourages fans and investors to buy non-fungible tokens linked to new music being created by participating artists. Those NFTs provide fans and investors with a royalty right, so that they share in any future income generated by a track. Ditto Music then distributes the recordings and ensures everyone gets any money they are due.

McCollum claims that he and his management team met with Parsons and Opulous marketing chief Fernando Cruz in May last year to discuss the new NFT business. However, the rapper insists, they only ever had “a general introductory meeting wherein defendants … generally pitched … the Opulous platform”.

And then, according to McCollum, the following month a press and social media campaign launched by Opulous “falsely representing that plaintiff, Lil Yachty, was affiliated, connected and associated with the Opulous platform, and further falsely representing that plaintiff’s copyrighted works would be offered for sale through the Opulous platform”.

“In these publications, defendants prominently displayed plaintiff’s name, trademark, and photograph, all without plaintiff’s permission or consent”, the lawsuit added. “At no time did defendants have authorisation or consent to utilise plaintiff’s name, trademark, or image”.

Shortly after the filing of that lawsuit, Opulous said in a statement that “contrary to the assertions in the complaint filed by Lil Yachty, Opulous’s uses of Lil Yachty’s name and likeness were all authorised by Lil Yachty and his representatives. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these meritless claims”.

It was actually Ditto and Parsons, not the Opulous company, that filed a formal response with the court last week – noting that “a third defendant, Opulous, an entity alleged to have been formed in Singapore, has not yet been served with the summons and complaint”.

Now, it remains to be seen if a future filing by Opulous presents in more detail the argument that all mentions of McCollum in the NFT start-up’s communications had been approved.

However, in last week’s legal filing, Ditto and Parsons instead argue that the Californian courts do not have jurisdiction in relation to this dispute. Because, while the social media posts being criticised were of course accessible in the US state, McCollum lives in a different state, Georgia, while Ditto and Parsons are based in the UK.

“The court should dismiss the complaint because plaintiff does not come close to proving this court has personal jurisdiction over defendants”, the legal filing begins. “Plaintiff, a resident of Georgia, sued defendants, a United Kingdom corporation and citizen, for claims arising out of four social media posts allegedly made by defendants, and a press release allegedly issued by a third party”.

“Plaintiff does not allege how the posts or press release have any connection at all to California”, it goes on, “does not allege that defendants have had any contact with California beyond bare legal conclusions, and does not claim that he suffered any damage in California”.

“Plaintiff’s likely argument that the social media posts were accessible in California and that is sufficient to invoke jurisdiction here is incorrect”, it then argues, “particularly where there is no allegation, let alone any evidence, of any connection to California. In sum, plaintiff falls well short of satisfying his burden to prove that this court has personal jurisdiction over these defendants”.

The legal filing then goes into some detail about how Ditto is very much a British company operating out of the UK and signing contracts subject to English law, while Parsons is a British citizen based in Lancashire and managing his social media accounts from the UK. Yes, he does also spend time in and therefore post to social media from Brazil, but that’s also thousands of miles away from California and its courts.

With all that in mind, the judge overseeing McCollum’s lawsuit should dismiss it – certainly in regards to Ditto and Parsons – or at least that’s what they reckon.

Responding, a legal rep for the rapper told Law360: “The motion filed by the defendants in this case fails to address the real issue – that the evidence shows beyond all doubt that they blatantly violated Lil Yachty’s rights by using his name and image for their own financial gain. We look forward to addressing these claims in court and have no further comment at this time”.