Glaser Weil Announces Complete Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Clients Morgan Creek and Lionsgate Regarding IP Rights to Tupac Shakur Biopic

Glaser Weil LLP is pleased to announce the dismissal in full of a copyright infringement and Lanham Act case brought against its clients, Morgan Creek, Lionsgate and the producers and writers of the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez On Me in Federal court for the Eastern District of New York.  The Glaser Weil team was led by Erica J. Van Loon, Partner and Head of the Firm’s Trademark, Copyright and Media Practice, with assistance from Intellectual Property Associate, Brittany Elias.

According to the initial and amended complaint (1:17-cv-03785-DLI-JO), Plaintiff Kevin Powell alleged copyright infringement of certain articles he wrote for Vibe magazine in the 1990s, in which he interviewed Tupac Shakur.  Mr. Powell claimed exclusive rights to certain facts and circumstances of Tupac’s life and generalized themes of the gangster rap era.  He also claimed that the interviewer character in the film shared his name and likeness and was falsely associated with him. The Plaintiff sued for injunctive relief and damages of more than $50 million.

Early-on, Glaser Weil brought a motion to dismiss the action, arguing that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue because he did not hold copyright registrations to the articles, which were registered to Vibe magazine. The Judge did not rule on the motion, and the case moved through discovery. As soon as discovery closed, Erica Van Loon sent a Rule 11 Motion for sanctions to the plaintiff and his counsel for filing and continuing to litigate a frivolous suit. Among other issues, the motion stated that the plaintiff lacked standing; the facts and ideas the plaintiff alleged in his Complaint were unprotectable via copyright; the plaintiff was estopped from arguing copyright protection in the articles when he portrayed them to the world as true and correct interviews with Tupac; and the interviewer character in the film did not share the plaintiff’s name and likeness or create a false association with the plaintiff.

In response to receiving the Rule 11 Motion, the plaintiff agreed to dismiss the lawsuit in full.  The parties filed a stipulation of dismissal and the case was dismissed on April 10, 2018.