DJ Master Tee Files Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over 2Pac's "Dear Mama"

DJ Master Tee is suing producer Tony D. Pizarro, Interscope Records and its parent company Universal Music Group (UMG) over 2Pac‘s Me Against The World hit “Dear Mama.”

Music Business Worldwide reports that Master Tee, real name Terence Thomas, is accusing Pizzaro of conspiring with the record labels to “[misappropriate] Master Tee’s publishing copyright and master recording copyright and [assume] the identity of writer/publisher of Dear Mama’s music.” The lawsuit notes that Thomas, who is named a producer on the track and has been working as a bus driver in New York City for the past 26 years, is “not a sophisticated business person” and did not know that he was owed publishing royalties until he watched the Dear Mama Hulu series this year. “Master Tee did not until very recently appreciate that the royalties which he was deriving from BMI were actually much less than he should have been receiving had his creative work been credited as it should have been from the outset,” the suit reads. It adds that the the three-year limit on filing a copyright infringement claim is not valid as the producer was only made aware of the supposed infringement this year.

The complaint explains that Master Tee and Tupac Shakur met in 1993 while he was a DJ for MC Lyte. They reportedly recorded “Dear Mama” around October 1993 and “[f]rom this meeting and collaboration, the iconic and historic hip hop song ‘Dear Mama’ was created.” Included in the lawsuit is a 1996 interview with the rapper where he states that “Master Tee gave me the beat” for “Dear Mama,” a handwritten note — supposedly written by Shakur — of the Me Against The World tracklist that names Master Tee as a producer on the song and a demo of the song that features his producer’s tag.

“While 2Pac was incarcerated and without initial consent from 2Pac and without ever receiving any consent from Master Tee, Pizarro took the master recording of Dear Mama and made unilateral changes at the bequest of Interscope Records, which Pizarro intended would eliminate Master Tee’s legitimate ownership of copyright,” the complaint read. “What is abundantly clear and scientifically provable is that the remixed tape reels which were generated by the Defendant Pizarro, dated July 1994 and retitled Dear Mama Remix, were derived from and are the slave versions of the original 2 Inch Master Tape of Dear Mama created in 1993 by 2Pac and Master Tee.”

The Walt Disney Company, Hulu, Fox Entertainment, FX Networks, NBC Universal, El Matador, director Allen Hughes and the Tupac Shakur Estate’s publishing company, Joshua’s Dream Music, were also named as defendants as they were involved in the Dear Mama series.

Master Tee wants the judge to declare him as a co-writer and co-publisher of the track, and for an injunction to bar the accused from collecting royalties until the case is resolved. He is also seeking for a sum of the money he is supposedly owed, alongside copyright infringement, unjust enrichment and theft of intellectual property damages.
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