Tupac Vs Death Row
The injunction sought to restrain the sale of certain assets belonging to the Tupac Estate which are being touted as part of the Death Row Records bankruptcy assets. With closed bidding ending today, lawyers for the Tupac Estate sought full disclosure by the Bankruptcy Trustee's counsel that the unreleased master recordings in question were not part of the sale. In actuality, the recordings should have been turned over to the Tupac Shakur Estate in 1997, pursuant to a settlement agreement reached with Death Row Records.
"The 1997 Death Row Agreement provided that all unreleased songs physically housed in the data vaults at Death Row Records, would become the rightful property of the Tupac Shakur Estate," said Donald N. David, General Counsel for Amaru Entertainment and shareholder at Akerman Senterfitt LLP. "Conversely, the Estate was under the assumption that it was in possession of all master recordings containing Tupac as a featured artist or side artist, as represented by Death Row. However, upon assessing the Debtor's bankruptcy assets, it was revealed that an album's worth of unreleased Tupac material was being advertised to potential buyers as the jewel in the crown of the Death Row assets, which is in direct violation of the terms of the 1997 settlement with Death Row."
At the time of his death, Tupac had recorded approximately 152 unreleased songs, which remained in the vaults of Death Row Records. Nowhere in the contract between Tupac and the record company was it provided that ownership of the unreleased material belonged to Death Row, thus at that time, the Tupac Estate sought custody of the master tapes and any unreleased recordings featuring Tupac. Unable to come to an agreement, the Tupac Estate eventually filed a lawsuit against the rap music label, ending in a written settlement obligating Death Row to surrender all physical master tapes featuring Tupac in June of 1997.
By April of 2006, Death Row Records head Marion "Suge" Knight sought bankruptcy protection for himself and the record company, claiming debts in excess of $100 million dollars. Earlier this year, proceedings began in the liquidation of Knight's assets, including the auctioning of Death Row Records and all of the label's music publishing copyrights, master recordings and trademarks.
The first component of the two-part proceedings is the closed bidding phase, when bidders submit a sealed bid for the assets on auction to the Debtor's Trustee. All bids are considered at once, with the winning bid then made public, at which time open bids are accepted. Erroneously listed as part of the label's assets were several unreleased master recordings featuring Tupac that are the property of the Tupac Estate.
"As of July 17, 2007, following repeated notices on behalf of the Tupac Shakur Estate, the Bankruptcy Trustee's counsel would not confirm whether the unreleased Tupac Shakur master recordings were excluded from the auction sale," said Mr. David. "Tupac Shakur is the highest selling rap artist in history and we are concerned that his inclusion in the sale falsely inflates the value of the property."