Artist News Legal

Insurer must pay for Fat Joe’s defence in copyright dispute, court says

By | Published on Thursday 19 December 2019

Fat Joe

A court in New York has ruled that the Homeland Insurance Company must cover the legal costs of rapper Fat Joe in a song-theft lawsuit being pursued against him by Fly Havana.

That song-theft lawsuit relates to ‘All The Way Up’, the 2016 collaboration between Fat Joe – real name Joseph Cartagena – and Remy Ma. Fly Havana – real name Eric Elliott – claims that Cartagena’s track is simply an evolution of one that he had previously helped create. The link between the two rappers is producer Infrared, who worked with both Elliott and then later Cartagena on what became ‘All The Way Up’.

For his part, Cartagena hasn’t denied Elliot’s involvement in creating his track. So much so, after its release he paid his fellow rapper a $5000 fee while also promising additional future royalties. But, it’s alleged, those royalties never materialised. That led to the filing of a lawsuit earlier this year, in which Elliot wants court confirmation that he is a co-creator if the 2016 record and therefore due a cut of all the money it created.

That lawsuit led to another, after Cartagena went to his insurance company Homeland expecting them to pay his legal costs in defending Elliot’s litigation. The insurer argued that it wasn’t obliged to fund any defence, because copyright claims of this kind weren’t covered by his policy and – even if they were – this particular lawsuit would be excluded because of the pre-existing link between Cartagena and Elliot, via Infrared.

But a judge in the New York courts has now sided with the rapper, concluding that the insurer is in breach of contract for failing to cover Cartagena’s legal costs in the Elliot case (although separate claims against Homeland of ‘breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing’ were rejected by the court).

In a summary judgement, the judge wrote: “Homeland asserts that plaintiffs fail to state a claim for breach of insurance contract because the policy does not afford coverage for the Elliott Lawsuit. Homeland is wrong … The allegations in the Elliott complaint can be fairly read to trigger Homeland’s duty to defend plaintiffs under the covered ‘piracy’, ‘plagiarism’, and ‘misappropriation of ideas’ perils”.

As for Homeland’s argument that the Elliot case was subject to an exclusion clause because of the link between the two rappers, the judge said “Homeland has failed to establish that [the claims in Elliot’s lawsuit] fall solely and exclusively within [that] exclusion”.

So, there you go. Neither Cartagena not Homeland has as yet commented on the ruling.