Copyright infringement lawsuits should, within a range of “some” to “most” of the time, be taken very seriously. They exist for a reason: to protect works of art from the sort of creative and/or commercial pillaging that could result in the original losing its place in both zeitgeist and market. But they’ve also become an easy way for publishing companies to scare up a little cash (and intimidate artistic experimentation) with formal accusations often ending in settlements.
But the RZA ain’t having that. The Wu-Tang godhead is prepared to protect his neck (thanks for that one, Hollywood Reporter) against claims by Japanese pub house Teichiku Entertainment that he illicitly used a piano line on Kanye West’s 2010 opus-opener “Dark Fantasy.” The supposedly pilfered ivories come from a song called “Gincyo Watadori” by Meiko Kaji, but the man born Robert Diggs (and his lawyers) say otherwise. In fact, they’re now suing the sue-er.
“We see dozens of baseless copyright-infringement claims against our clients every year,” RZA’s lawyer Howard King told THR. “Rather than engaging in costly and fruitless dialogue trying to convince claimants and their contingency lawyers that our clients do not succumb to extortion and settle ridiculous claims, we have decided to commence declaratory relief actions to squash some of these claims and, perhaps, recover our costs of defending same.”
Poom! As a result of the possibly baseless claims against, Island Def Jam has been withholding the producer’s royalties, now to the tune of more than $50,000. But RZA’s team argues not only that he didn’t sample the song, but that he couldn’t have if he wanted to: “It would have been technologically impossible to sample the piano run without the rest of the music. [Plus,] the least talented person in the studio could have replayed it had anyone wished to do so.”
If RZA is successful, this could open the door to future responses from his peers.