Chi Modu's Estate Files Lawsuit Against Universal Music Over Tupac Shakur Photo
The estate of the legendary hip-hop photographer Chi Modu has filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Group regarding a page on the record label's website titled, “Best Tupac Songs: 26 Essential Tracks.” The lawsuit claims that the post features one of Modu's iconic photos of Shakur atop the page, but credits the image to the Universal Music Archives.
The estate claims to have sent a cease and desist to UMG, but that the “Defendants failed to meaningfully respond,” according to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges copyright infringement by UMG and 10 unnamed and unidentified co-defendants.
“Chi Modu’s photography captured moments of profundity and grace,” Scott Burroughs, an attorney for the estate, told Billboard 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.”
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Modu's estate is seeking an award of all profits and fees, as well as the removal of the photograph, and damages. Billboard reports that statutory damages for copyright infringement can reach up to $150,000 per violation.
Modu is best known for his photographs of Shakur as well as The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Nas, Snoop Dogg, N.W.A, and many more. He passed away in 2021 at the age of 54.