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A photograph of late rap icon Tupac Shakur is at the center of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Universal Music Group. The music corporation is accused of using a photo taken by late photographer Chi Modu on a website owned and operated by the company.
Filed on Friday (June 24) by the estate of Modu, the suit cites a post on Udiscovermusic.com titled Best Tupac Songs: 26 Essential Tracks featuring the photo in question, which attributes its credit to Universal Music Archives. Modu’s estate also alleges that UMG removed the late photographer’s copyright information from the photo prior to including it in the post, which was originally published on June 16, 2019.
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“Chi Modu’s photography captured moments of profundity and grace,” an attorney for the estate, Scott Burroughs, said in a statement. “While it does not surprise me that it would appeal to Universal, we are disappointed that the company did not reach out to the Estate to procure a license before exploiting Mr. Modu’s work on its commercial website. We look forward to addressing this infringement in court.”
According to the filings, Modu’s estate sent a cease and desist to UMG and Udiscovrmusic.com on Feb. 9, 2022 threatening litigation, which failed to garner a response. In addition to UMG, 10 other unnamed defendants are included in the lawsuit, all of whom are accused of profiting from the usage of Modu’s work. Modu’s estate is seeking a jury trial and award of all profits and fees generated by the photo, the photo’s removal from the Udiscovermusic site, and damages.
One of the more acclaimed photographers in Hip-Hop history, Modu captured timeless images of countless legends during his career, including The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Nas, Snoop Dogg, N.W.A, Mobb Deep, Q-Tip, and more.