Famed rapper Jay-Z is suing his former partner Damon Dash, in a bid to stop the auction of a new NFT. The NFT reportedly consists of Jay-Z’s 1996 album “Reasonable Doubt”, which was released by Roc-A-Fella Records, co-owned by the two men. The lawsuit argues Dash is urgently trying to find an outlet for the NFT.
This isn’t the first time Jay-Z has sued over the album. He recently sued the photographer for the cover over using his likeness on merchandise without his permission. But in the case of the NFT, the seriousness of the charges are more serious. Dash isn’t just selling a copy of “Reasonable Doubt”, he’s claiming to sell the copy of the album.
Ownership rights and the NFT world
The issue in the Jay-Z case is likely easy to resolve, as he reportedly bought the full rights to all his music after Roc-A-Fella became defunct in 2013. Legally speaking, only the owner of the album can exploit the music, such as making NFTs. But to the casual observer, the co-founder of the record company that released the album would seem like a legitimate creator of the NFT.
What makes this lawsuit interesting is that doesn’t simply argue that Damon Dash has no right to earn money from the NFT. It argues “the sale of this irreplaceable asset must be stopped before it is too late”. That strongly implies Jay-Z’s lawyers see the sale of an NFT as an irreversible milestone: once it’s minted, the game is over.
Jay-Z’s potential sales impacted by Dash
This is an effect the NFT world has seen before, but never quite on this scale. There have been problems with fraud, where a user will sell NFTs created by other artists without permission. The issue becomes: do the unauthorized NFTs have any value? And by existing, do they reduce the value of any authorized versions that might follow?
In Jay-Z’s case, the numbers are likely to be enormous. If Dash is able to sell an NFT of “Reasonable Doubt” in June 2021, what will its existence do to Jay-Z’s future NFT plans? Even if he is awarded any earnings from the sale, the damage may be done.
The entertainment world is obsessed with “last performance” — your worth is judged by the amount of money earned on your previous project. If “Reasonable Doubt” is auctioned for, say, $100,000, that number may be good enough for Damon Dash, but could be disastrous for Jay-Z. Rightly or wrongly, it would impact his reputation, and risk reducing the value of any authorized NFTs he mints later on.
Real legal urgency in the NFT space
There are many legal questions floating around the NFT world right now, some of which aren’t likely to be answered without a lawsuit or two. But the fact that Jay-Z sees the Damon Dash auction as something to treat with urgency shows that NFTs are a serious concern for even mainstream artists.
Whether or not Jay-Z is able to stop the auction, or what effects it will have down the line, remains to be seen. But for the crypto world, it’s a good sign that big players like Jay-Z are taking NFTs seriously enough to sue over.
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