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Missy Elliott sues producer over early-1990s recordings

By | Published on Monday 10 August 2020

Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott has sued a producer who she says is unlawfully trying to flog off some recordings she created in his studio nearly thirty years ago.

In the lawsuit filed last week, Elliott says that, in the early 1990s, she spent time in the studios of a number of record producers as she developed her songwriting, creating songs for both herself and others to perform.

Among those studios was that of defendant Terry Williams. Elliott says that she was mainly interested in accessing William’s database of beats, and that she never collaborated with the producer on any songwriting at the time.

The story then resumes in 2017 when a representative of Williams reached out to Elliott trying to sell her the rights to about 34 recordings that were made in his studio back in the 1990s. That representative seemingly implied that if she didn’t buy those masters, the producer would try to shop them to someone else.

Elliott insists that he can’t do that because she alone owns the rights in songs contained in those unreleased recordings.

A back and forth followed, after which Williams sued Elliott for, among other things, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. She managed to get that case dismissed earlier this year, and is now going legal herself in a bid to get court confirmation regarding her ownership of the song rights, and that that prevents Williams from selling on or otherwise monetising the early 1990s recordings.

Having described in some detail Elliot’s creative process, and how Williams never played any role in that, the lawsuit asks the court to declare that she is “the sole author and sole owner of the lyrics, vocal arrangements and melodies underlying and embodied within the subject recordings, in addition to any other recordings defendant Williams possesses or maintains, or ever possessed or maintained, featuring the vocal performance of plaintiff Elliott”.

And also that, “as a result of plaintiff’s sole authorship and ownership of the lyrics, vocal arrangements and melodies underlying and embodied within the subject recordings, any and all assignments, transfers and/or licences by Williams of any of the recordings are null and void”.

And for good measure, Elliott would like the court to confirm that “defendant Williams, and his agents, officers, servants, employees, successors and assigns, and all others acting in concert or in privity with defendant Williams, are preliminarily and permanently enjoined and restrained from directly or indirectly exploiting any of the recordings, including, without limitation, displaying, reproducing, transferring or distributing the recordings in any respect”.

We now await to see how Williams responds.