M.O.P., John Cena Caught In Tangled Lawsuit With WWE

Wrestler John Cena has found himself at the center of a tangled, new copyright infringement lawsuit over his use of an M.O.P. sample.

According to a lawsuit filed by publishing administration firm The Royalty Network, Inc. Cena, the WWE, Sony BMG Music, Stephanie Music Publishing and Cherry Lane are accused of unauthorized use of the sample from M.O.P.'s 2000 hit "Ante Up."

At issue is a line described in court documents as "a distinctive freestyle rap - 'BRRR Abado'," the infamous war cry which appears at the beginning of the anthem.

The same line appears three times in Cena's song "The Time is Now (John Cena's theme)," from the WWE star's lofty 2005 Hip-Hop debut You Can't See Me.

The song was also featured on the 2007 compilation WWE: Raw Greatest Hits - The Music, and was played each time Cena appeared on a WWE broadcast and in some WWE television commercials.

Royalty Network is pursuing the lawsuit on behalf of M.O.P.'s long time manager - Laze Elliot - not M.O.P.

The Royalty Network represents Elliot through an agreement his publishing company, Blind Man's Bluff Music.

Because of a 1993 recording agreement between Elliot's Blaze Entertainment and M.O.P., the publishing company has a 50 percent stake in the group's 2/3 ownership of the song, with the additional third belonging to producer D/R Period.

In December 2004, the law firm of Pryor, Cashman, Sherman and Flynn requested that Blind Man's Bluff release the sample through a "gratis license," meaning that they would forfeit all royalties tied to the use of the sample.

That request was denied.

According to the lawsuit, the request would be later granted, allegedly by an unauthorized employee of Next Level Music, a company co-owned by D/R Period.

However, he had allegedly already signed away the licensing rights of his minority interest in the song, giving a company named Spirit Two Music, the sole control of those rights.

This, in turn, made the sample clearance null and void, as it was given to the WWE by someone who held no rights to it.

The Royalty Network is seeking to have John Cena's "The Time Is Now" destroyed.

They are also asking for compensatory damages equal to $750 to $30,000 for each time the song has been used, for a grand total of no less than $150,000.

At press time, M.O.P. member Billy Danze declined to comment on the lawsuit, as he was examining the details surrounding it.