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Lil Wayne sues Universal Music over Drake, Nicki Minaj profits

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Lil Wayne has filed a lawsuit against Universal Music for allegedly refusing to pay Wayne royalties over discovered talent, according to court documents acquired by EW. 

Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Carter Jr., claims UMG, which distributes music on his Cash Money label, has withheld paying him and Young Money Entertainment for spotting and fostering talent, including Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga, in the lawsuit filed in California on Monday. SoundExchange, a non-profit performance management organization that distributes digital performance royalties, is also named in the suit. The plaintiffs seek at least $40 million in damages.

“Ignoring written assurances of ownership of and profits from some of the most successful recordings of the last decade,” the lawsuit reads, “Universal has diverted tens of millions of dollars of profits owing to Lil Wayne to repay itself some of the more than One Hundred Million Dollars ($1 00,000,000) it advanced to Cash Money Records, Inc. (‘Cash Money’).”

In 2003, the lawsuit alleges an Cash Money Records (part of UMG) and Wayne made an agreement in which profits from Young Money artists would be split 51% — 49%, between the label and Wayne. The deal was extended up through June 4, 2015. “Carter and Cash Money jointly shall be responsible for the recording process for the records to be created by it and exploited- including being involved in the specification of all creative and budgetary elements – and that all creative decisions shall be mutually approved by both Carter and Cash Money,” the suit claims.

The lawsuit later cites Drake’s upcoming album as a sticking point in its battle against Universal: “By reason of the 2003 Label Agreement, as well as the end of the joint venture effective June 4, 2015, Cash Money does not have, and never had, unilateral authority to make disposition of Young Money Label assets, to deliver the new Drake record to Universal, to permit Universal to release and distribute that record, nor to collateralize any of the revenues due Plaintiffs in favor of Universal.”

SoundExchange is a nonprofit company that facilitates the distribution of digital performance royalties on behalf of copyright owners. In alleged communications to SoundExchange, “Universal has claimed a right to 100% of the label performance royalties attributed to the YME Records,” thus preventing the former to pay Young Money.

Reps for Lil Wayne did not return EW’s request for comment. “These claims are entirely without merit,” a UMG spokesperson told EW. “It should be no surprise that we learned of the lawyer’s complaint through the news media. We don’t intend to dignify this with further public comment except to say that we will vigorously contest it and that the merits of our case will carry the day.”