A Texas judge granted a motion to dismiss claims against Tupac Shakur’s estate regarding ownership of the original Makaveli painting.
According to court documents obtained by AllHipHop, Judge Jane Boyle dismissed the case without prejudice on Wednesday (February 22). Artist Ronald Brent, the Zelus Group and Leslie Ware wanted the judge to declare Ware the rightful owner of the painting, but the court ruled it had no jurisdiction over Tupac’s estate and Amaru Entertainment.
“Plaintiffs seek to hale Amaru to the Northern District of Texas for declaration as to the ownership and copyright of the Painting and Image, and their action is against Amaru directly and personally,” Judge Boyle wrote. “To conclude that the Court could assert jurisdiction over Amaru merely because of the painting’s presence in Texas would place ancient forms over modern notions of due process.”
Judge Boyle recapped the details of the ownership dispute in her ruling. Brent created the painting, which was used for the cover of Tupac’s posthumous album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.
“Today, the painting is in Dallas, Texas, and several parties lay claim to both the physical painting and its copyright,” the judge explained. “Plaintiffs Brent, Zelus, and Ware tell one tale of ownership. They allege that Brent retained ownership of the Makaveli painting until 2012 when he sold it to a third party, Mazuree Ali. In 2021, Ali then sold the painting to Zelus. Later that year, Zelus ‘contracted with Heritage Auctioneers & Galleries, Inc. to market and publicly auction the Makaveli painting.’ And, ultimately, Leslie Ware was the winning bidder.”
She continued, “By contrast, Amaru contends that Brent never ‘owned’ the Makaveli painting or image to begin with. Rather, because Brent was an employee for [Death Row Records], Amaru alleges that ownership of the painting and image stayed with DRR. Then, in 2013, Amaru, along with Tupac’s late mother, Afeni Shakur, filed an action to recover Tupac’s DRR recordings and related material, including album artwork. Ultimately, according to Amaru, the purported holder of the DRR materials quitclaimed and assigned the recordings and artwork to Amaru on January 1, 2022.”
The ownership battle began once the painting appeared on an online auction in May 2022. Amaru demanded the listing be removed. Tupac’s estate exchanged emails with Zelus about the painting before both sides took the dispute to court.
Tupac’s estate and Zelus pursued legal action in California and Texas, respectively. The auction moved forward with Ware winning the painting. The painting currently resides in his Dallas home.