Carlton Ridenhour, better known as the rapper Chuck D., who founded hip-hop group Public Enemy, has filed a Complaint for declaratory relief regarding the ownership of copyrights, as well as causes of action for fraud and conversion against Michael Closter and Closter’s fully owned Reach Global, Inc. He claims that the defendants used false copyright registrations to fraudulently obtain ownership rights in certain musical compositions written by him.
Chuck D. says that, back in 2001, Closter proposed that they form a music publishing company to administer Chuck D.’s interest in the musical compositions Chuck D. acquired from Def Jam Recordings, Inc. as well as compositions for other artists that Chuck D. planned to introduce. Closter created Terrordome Music Publishing, LLC, which took ownership of the copyrights to the compositions. Reach Global, Inc., a defendant in the action, acquired a 34% interest in the company, even though Closter allegedly only contributed $500 in capital.
A third member of Terrordome was bought out by Reach Global, Inc. and Chuck D.’s corporate entity, Bring The Noize Music, Inc. (BTNM). Reach ended up with 42% of Terrordome, while BTNM had 42% equity in the entity.
According to the Complaint, Chuck D. had no clue that Terrordome was acting in any way other than as an administrator of the compositions. He says that, in February 2019, he first discovered that Terrordome had actually acquired ownership of the copyrights to his musical compositions.
The crux of Chuck D.’s claims is that Closter, without authority or consent, registered the copyrights in what has been labeled as “Stolen Compositions,” in the name of Terrordome. These registrations, per Chuck D., were obtained through fraudulent means, as Closter would have had to falsely claim and certify that Terrordome had acquired the right to register the copyrights by written agreement. Chuck D. says that there was never such agreement in place.
The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.