A lawsuit by Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. (aka Lil’ Wayne), seeking, among other things, $50 million from the makers of The Carter, a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, has taken a new turn: After a countersuit by entertainment company Digerati and a decision by the California Court of Appeals, it turns out Wayne could be found liable for breaching his oral contract with filmmakers by failing to promote the project. In short, his initial plan may have backfired.
Wayne’s documentary reached the iTunes Top 10 and was called “one of the top-five greatest hip-hop documentaries of all time” by Brandon Perkins of the Huffington Post. The success of the film horrified Lil’ Wayne who claimed his approval rights were important so the film would not depict him in a way that would hurt him in his criminal court proceedings. “Wayne was arrested twice, in July, 2007, and January, 2008, on weapons and drug charges and ultimately served eight months in prison in 2010. He is currently serving three years probation,” reported Jeff Gordon of Courthouse News
The film chronicles the life and times Lil’ Wayne, who objected to the film’s release prior to the removal of unapproved footage. In his suit, he asserted that Digerati had breached the agreement by failing to honor Carter’s final approval rights. In his complaint, he claims (according to the appellate opinion): “ (1) breach of contract; (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3) unfair competition (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.); (4) intentional misrepresentation; (5) constructive fraud; (6) invasion of privacy; and (7) injunctive relief.”
When Lil’ Wayne sought an injunction to prevent the detrimental material from being shown elsewhere, Digerati countersued, claiming that the now notorious rapper had breached his contract by failing to make himself available to for press interviews. The countersuit also claimed his lawyers secretly approached possible distributors like MTV Networks and Viacom. In response, Wayne filed an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation-Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16) motion, asserting the counterclaim was a hindrance of free speech.
Justice Walter Croskey, a California appellate judge, ruled on behalf of his panel that producers of the documentary film about Lil’ Wayne could proceed with their claims that the performer had breached the express terms of their contractual agreement. He also affirmed the denial of a court order barring the release of The Carter. The case returns to a lower court for jury trial.