Black Sheep’s Suit Against Universal Music Dismissed

Source: Al Pereira / Getty

A lawsuit brought by Black Sheep against Universal Music Group for unpaid royalties has been dismissed by a judge outright.
According to reports, a judge in New York has tossed out the lawsuit by Black Sheep against their former label, Universal Music Group for “withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from artists”. UMG asked the court to dismiss the complaint outright, which was the path taken by Judge Jennifer L. Rochon. The decision also prevents the group from having a chance to amend(add additional information to the lawsuit) saying “that leave to amend is not warranted because it would be futile.”

The lawsuit was brought by Dres and Mr. Lawange of Black Sheep two years ago, claiming that based on UMG’s acceptance of reduced royalty rates for their 1991 debut album A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing to be streamed on Spotify in exchange for low-priced shares in the platform that Universal held onto an estimated $750 million in royalties. This was based on the streaming figures for several tracks from that RIAA-certified gold album, including “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” which to date has 41.44 million plays on streaming platforms.

The news came a day before the premiere of The Choice Is Yours, a documentary on Dres of Black Sheep and his quest to release an album featuring his lyrics backed by production from the late J Dilla with the blessing of Ma Dukes. There has been no word yet from Dres about the verdict handed down. 

In documents from the ruling, Judge Rochon stated that the lawsuit did not fall within the contractually established two-year statute of limitations. “Even accepting Plaintiffs’ alternative argument that UMG breached the contract again after Spotify’s IPO in 2018,” Judge Rochon wrote in the decision, “Plaintiffs’ failure to bring those claims within two years of UMG’s alleged breach still renders them untimely.” She applied that reasoning behind dismissing each claim in the suit except for “lowered royalty payments issued after January 4, 2021,” which was the date that the lawsuit was submitted. In that instance, Judge Rochon wrote that the contract’s “plain language” didn’t support the argument brought by Black Sheep in the lawsuit. 

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