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Former Jay-Z producer now suing for co-ownership of rarity recordings

By | Published on Monday 14 July 2014


A producer recently investigated over allegations of extortion after a complaint was seemingly filed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation business, or possibly its parent company Live Nation, has now filed a complicated lawsuit in which he makes claims of co-ownership to some of the hip hop mogul’s own recordings.

Back in April, Chauncey Mahan was questioned by LA police officers after allegedly telling Roc Nation that he was sitting on a pile of outtakes and demos from when he worked with Jay-Z back in the day. He reportedly indicated that he had considered auctioning off the recordings, but that he’d return them to the rapper’s company if they paid a storage fee. Live Nation then apparently accused Mahan of extortion, and brought LAPD officers with them to a scheduled meeting with the producer.

But Mahan wasn’t arrested, and the investigation into the extortion complaint seems to have been closed without any action being taken. And, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the producer has now gone legal, against his former collaborator and his then label Roc A Fella, seemingly in a bid to prove that Mahan should have co-ownership of the copyrights in the old Jay-Z recordings. Because, he argues, as a “creative sound engineer” he was involved in the creation of the works.

The case will likely centre on whether or not Mahan was a ‘work for hire’ when he collaborated with Jay-Z, an issue that comes up with increased frequency in US copyright cases, mainly because of the ‘reversion right’ in song copyrights, which stems from 1970s law but which is only now kicking in.

It means that US publishing (and possibly other music) rights automatically revert to the ‘creator’ after 35 years, oblivious of any original assignment contract. Though there is often a dispute over who exactly the creator of any one song is where corporate entities claim that an artist, songwriter or producer was basically an employee, meaning creator rights sit with the employer.

The specifics of this legal dispute are different, but if it were to ever reach court some of the discussions about work for hire could have wider ramifications.