Three producers initiated legal action in a California courtroom yesterday (June 25), accusing T-Pain, SRC Records boss Steve Rifkind and others of copyright infringement.
At issue is T Pains hit single Im N Luv With A Stripper, which a group songwriters claim is stolen material.
According to a complaint filed Monday (Jun 23) with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Rodney King (no relation), Jeff Byrd and James Reese are demanding a trial by jury and seeking an award for damages including any gains, profits and advantages obtained as a result of the alleged infringement.
In 1997, the three plaintiffs, who collectively have worked with the likes of Lionel Richie, Teena Marie, and 90s group All For One, created a song titled Makin Luv 2 A Player.
The song was subsequently recorded by actor Antonio Fargas, best known for his portrayal of Huggy Bear in the 70s television series Starsky and Hutch.
A year later, the song was submitted to Rifkind during his tenure as the CEO of Loud Records and King and Fargas received a meeting invitation to discuss the licensing or sale of the song.
During the meeting, Rifkind allegedly reiterated his interest in having the song re-recorded by an artist on the Loud roster, bringing in several members of the labels A&R staff to discussing the possibility of involving Big Pun, Wu Tang Clan or Fat Joe.
Also at hand was the labels alleged desire to support the record with a tour and feature film.
Following the meeting, the involved parties continued to negotiate, both verbally and in writing, but were unable to come to an agreement.
The lawsuit claims Rifkind did however, retain a copy of the song. In 2005, shortly after founding SRC and signing singer/producer Akon, T-Pain was signed to Akons Konvit Muzic imprint and Jive Records, which is a subdivision of Zomba.
The lawsuit suggests that T-Pain, born Faheem Najm, then received a copy of their song, from which he drew more than inspiration for his 2005 hit featuring Mike Jones.
The musical hook is nearly identical, attorney Gregory Bodell told AllHipHop.com. Its a little slower in my clients song, but it was of course recorded 8 years earlier. When I listened to it, I said, Thats the same hook.
Given how similar the hook is musically, and the lyrics arent that different, from Makin love to a playa to I’m in Luv Wit a Stripper, its hard to believe that Rifkind, who had my clients original song, didn’t give the song to T-Pain, Bodell claimed. It is especially likely that this happened since originally, back in 98 when he met with Mr. King, he and his A&R staff were trying to determine which of his artists would best perform the song. It seems they found T-Pain in 2005.
The plaintiffs have requested that the court determine an amount of punitive and exemplary damages that is sufficient to punish [the defendants] and to deter similar conduct in the future, according to the lawsuit.
Rifkind, T-Pain, Houston rapper Mike Jones, SRC Records, the Konvict Muzik Group, Zomba Recordings, Warner-Tamerlane Publishing, and Sony BMG Music are all named as defendants in the multi-million dollar lawsuit.
Also named as defendants are up to 100 “John Does,” referring to the various companies that have been involved in the distribution of “Im N Luv Wit A Stripper,” including ringtone companies and digital distribution sources.http://allhiphop.com/stories/multimedia__music/archive/2008/06/27/20237029.aspx
*No one is permitted to copy, record, download, sell, distribute or otherwise use the song in any way without the express written permission of Messrs. King, Byrd and Reese as they hold a copyright on it.*