Interscope, Hulu, and Others Move to Dismiss ‘Dear Mama’ Infringement Suit Following ‘Pure Fantasy’ Settlement Demands

Tupac Dear Mama copyright lawsuit
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Tupac Dear Mama copyright lawsuit
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Photo Credit: Mali Maeder

Following evidently fruitless settlement discussions, Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records has officially taken a step towards seeking the dismissal of an infringement lawsuit filed by Tupac Shakur collaborator Master Tee.

Interscope as well as fellow defendants including Hulu and FX just recently moved to reopen the case, which has been paused since mid-April amid settlement talks. Initially designed to hammer out the details of a “modest” resolution, said talks in reality encompassed “pure fantasy” demands from the plaintiff for a massive payment, according to the defendants.

For a refresher on the original complaint, which we covered at the time of its November of 2023 filing, Master Tee (real name Terence Thomas) purportedly “co-wrote, produced and published the music” from which “2Pac immediately wrote the lyrics” for 1995’s “Dear Mama.”

In support of the claim, the plaintiff pointed to what’s described as Tupac’s handwritten record of credits on his songs. However, Master Tee never received an official songwriting credit on the track and is allegedly billed solely as a producer.

“Master Tee was never properly and fully credited with his publishing copyright from the writing and creation of the music of ‘Dear Mama’ and instead,” the original suit reads, “a self-serving group, led by an upstart music producer, Tony D. Pizarro, conspired with executives at Interscope Records and Universal Music Group” to misappropriate the rights.

Stated briefly, Master Tee (“a musical artist – not a sophisticated business person”) maintains that Pizarro swooped in at the time of Tupac’s 1995 incarceration and assumed “control over the production.”

That alleged control refers not only to the alleged theft of Master Tee’s rightful credit on “Dear Mama,” but an alleged effort from Pizarro “to lay claim to every aspect of the written creative work” in question (as well as a remix to boot) via interviews and other public remarks.

In the end, Master Tee, who’s said to have been working as a New York City bus driver for the better part of three decades, ostensibly enlisted counsel to explore the credits situation last year. Per the suit, that process initiated after the individual “was not contacted nor asked to clear or license his rights” for the Dear Mama series that Hulu and FX released in 2023.

“One major reason that Master Tee did not know he was not receiving proper royalty and copyright credit was because he was receiving writer’s and publishing royalties from BMI for radio of ‘Dear Mama,’” the plaintiff elaborated in the action.

“Being a relatively unsophisticated producer, 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,” he continued.

Back to the defendants’ mentioned motion to resume the case and then move to dismiss, Master Tee and his counsel allegedly represented beforehand that they were “merely seeking formal credit and a modest writer’s royalty.”

“Since then,” Interscope and the other defendants proceeded, “plaintiff has made it abundantly clear that he and this case are not ready for a serious settlement discussion. First, instead of a modest royalty, plaintiff is now demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars from each defendant, and a writer’s share of ‘Dear Mama’ that is twice what the Tupac Shakur estate receives for Shakur’s lyrical contribution.”

Building on those points, the defendants (who also believe the allegations are time-barred) highlighted a purported demand from Master Tee for a $1.6 million once-off settlement or, alternatively, a $200,000 payment along with a 15% “writer’s royalty for ‘Dear Mama’ and a doubling of his producer royalty.”

“The demand would be pure fantasy even if plaintiff’s claims were timely,” the defendants proceeded, indicating as well that “a 15% writer’s royalty would be nearly twice the Shakur Estate’s 8.33% royalty.”

Finally, the defendants emphasized that Pizarro himself hadn’t participated in the settlement conference and may not have been served. For these and related reasons, Interscope and the other involved parties asked the court to set a deadline, at least two weeks after ruling on the sought settlement discussions’ conclusion, for the filing of a dismissal motion.