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Lil Yachty sues music NFT start-up Opulous for trademark infringement

By | Published on Monday 31 January 2022

Lil Yachty

The rapper Lil Yachty has sued Opulous – the music NFTs start-up launched by the founders of Ditto Music – accusing it of using his name and brand as part of launch communications, even though he had not agreed to get involved in the venture.

In a lawsuit filed last week, the rapper – real name Miles McCollum – claims that while he and his management team had meetings with Opulous founder Lee Parsons and its Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Cruz in May last year, they never signed up to work with or endorse the NFT start-up.

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.

The venture properly launched with an NFT drop from Lil Pump and Soulja Boy, and via a partnership with investment platform Republic, which used its Opulous tie-up to move into music investments. A move that has also resulted in legal action, in that case from Republic Records owner Universal Music.

But back to Lil Yachty. He says that his management met with Parsons and Cruz on 24 May last year, and that another virtual meeting involving the rapper himself took place the next day. But, he insists, both of those were “a general introductory meeting wherein defendants … generally pitched … the Opulous platform”.

McCollum is keen to stress that during those meetings “no agreement or deal terms for plaintiff’s involvement was ever reached” and that “subsequent to the conference call / virtual meeting on 24 May 2021, there were no further communications between the parties, and accordingly no agreement or deal terms for plaintiff’s involvement in the defendants’ launch of the Opulous platform was ever reached”.

But the following month, it is alleged, 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 adds.

Alongside that, Music Business Worldwide published an article which, the lawsuit claims, “contained numerous statements made by Lee Parsons both falsely representing plaintiff’s affiliation and involvement with the Opulous platform, as well as touting the significance to the Opulous platform of having an artist as high profile and respected as plaintiff involved with the launch of Opulous’s copyright NFT offerings”.

That press statement and article – and other statements and social media posts – McCollum claims, constituted trademark infringement and unfair competition, and also infringed his privacy and publicity rights.

“At no time did defendants have authorisation or consent to utilise plaintiff’s name, trademark, or image”, the lawsuit states.

“In fact”, it goes on, “at all times, defendants acted with actual malice in that defendants knew that they did not have authorisation to utilise plaintiff’s name, trademark or image … yet did so anyways because [doing so] was beneficial to defendants’ commercial enterprises in general and their launching of the Opulous platform specifically, in blatant and conscious disregard for plaintiff’s exclusive legal rights to control the use and exploitation of his name, trademark, and image”.

So that’s all fun. Opulous is yet to respond.