When an ambitious teen from Down Under travels to the United States to launch a career in a rough-and-tumble part of the music business, the results aren’t always pretty, as the artist known as Iggy Azalea has discovered. A U.S. District Court in Los Angles recently granted her a preliminary injunction, enjoining Primco Management, ESMG Inc., and Wine Enterprises Inc. from using Azalea’s image and releasing what she calls unauthorized tracks from the rap star’s formative years.The order is part of litigation over an agreement that defendant Maurice Williams, aka Hefe Wine, claims Azalea signed in 2009 that gives him full ownership and exploitation rights to the early recordings. She says the accord is fabricated and her signature on it was forged — that it was cut and pasted from an early management contract with another individual that Wine took from Azalea. Just reading the ruling provides plenty of eyebrow-raising reading about the relationship-building in rap, which apparently can be a raw as the genre’s lyrics.The early recordings, Azalea asserts, were stolen from her during her brief relationship with Wine, when she was age 17 and he, among other things, made “unwelcome sexual advances” on her. Amethyst Amelia Kelly, aka Azalea, says he downloaded the contents of her personal computer, including unreleased musical sound recordings she created and performed. The performer, songwriter and model says she never completed nor approved for release for commercial sale these unreleased masters (a tip of the hat to Courthouse News for posting online the court’s civil minutes.) She also says she never permitted anyone to alter, remix, sample or otherwise use them or their underlying lyrics for commercial gain.
She says that in July, 2014, Primco Management Inc. issued a news release, claiming it had secured rights to release a music EP by Azalea, Inizo, which she says is nothing more than a bootleg of samples from unreleased masters misappropriated by Wine from her computer. The EP also was promoted with artwork featuring her trademark, name and likeness. Her representatives sent Primco a cease-and-desist letter, which the firm and the other defendants responded to by claiming they had full ownership and exploitation rights to the recordings; Primco brought forth the recording agreement as its evidence.
The court found that Azalea met her burden, demonstrating a likelihood of irreparable harm from defendants’ wrongful conduct. The court said looked at her copyright infringement claim and at Lions Gate Films v. Does, a case involving one of the Expendables movies; because Azalea had not released the copyrighted recordings at issue, the court said defendants had infringed on her exclusive right to control the first publication of the sounds recordings. The court found that her inability to control her own music brand and defendants’ use of her mark in their videos, despite her cease-and-desist letter, made it likely that they will do so again, exposing her to potential loss of reputation and goodwill. That constitutes irreparable injury to her trademark, the court said. As to her right of publicity claim, the court said Azalea had proven her burden of showing irreparable damage to her public personae by defendants’ conduct.
With injunction in hand from U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, Azalea could be moving to the trial phase of her case. Meantime, for those unacquainted with her work, here’s a taste — good taste might suggest not cranking this up in a conservative office setting: