Universal Music Group is currently in a legal battle after posting a photo of Tupac.
Billboard reports that the estate of the legendary Hip-Hop photographer Chi Modu is suing the music company for using one of his photos of the late rapper on its website without proper credit.
On June 24, the estate’s trustee Sophia Modu filed the lawsuit against Universal Music following its blog post “Best Tupac Songs: 26 Essential Tracks.” According to the outlet, the credit for the photo of Tupac in the post was given to Universal Music Archives instead of Chi Modu. Originally published on June 16, 2019, UMG and the site were hit with a cease and desist on February 9, 2022, before it went on to republish the post on June 16, 2022 — Tupac’s birthday that recently passed. In the complaint, it claims that Modu’s estate threatened a lawsuit and the “Defendants failed to meaningfully respond.”
What started as a threat is now a full-blown lawsuit, which is claiming copyright infringement by UMG and 10 unnamed co-defendants. Also, the complaint alleges that the defendants profited from the copyrighted work and “violated 17 U.S. Code 1202 by removing Modu’s copyright information from the photograph before publishing it.”
The estate is requesting a jury trial and award of all profits, fees, and damages — which the outlet states can reach up to $150,000 per violation.
“Chi Modu’s photography captured moments of profundity and grace,” an attorney for the estate, Scott Burroughs said in a statement, according to the outlet.  “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.”
Following Modu’s passing last year, the NFT platform Flash Mints celebrated his life and iconic work. As previously reported by AfroTech, his collection titled “The Second Drop,” was released on December 24 to preserve historical moments in Hip-Hop.
Ngozi Nwanji is a Nigerian-American journalist, writer, and content creator from and based in Silver Spring, Maryland with a passion for storytelling, media representation, and music. Along with for AfroTech, she’s a contributing writer for Baltimore-based outlet The 4th Quarter and the founder of her own entertainment website, Z’s P.O.V – a platform for underrated music and Black creatives.
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