A New York judge has ruled on Etana’s lawsuit against her former record label, VP Records, and Greensleeves Publishing. The Jamaican reggae singer had accused the companies of breach of contract and copyright infringement, but nine of her fourteen claims were dismissed by the judge. He gave Etana two weeks to amend her complaint.
The case concerns four contracts that were signed over the course of Etana’s career with the companies. The first was a recording agreement with VP for four albums released between 2007 and 2014. The second was an additional recording agreement with VP that was signed in 2014 after the delivery of all four albums. The third was a songwriter agreement with Greensleeves, signed in mid-2008, and the fourth was a co-publishing and administration agreement with Greensleeves, signed in 2014. It is worth noting that VP acquired Greensleeves for $6.2 million in 2008, according to Billboard.
Etana, whose real name is Shauna McKenzie-Morris, and Free Mind Music LLC, a company that she partly owns, have accused VP and Greensleeves of breaching the four contracts after they allegedly failed to pay her royalties and other monies that were allegedly due to her. In an amended complaint filed in April 2022, Etana also made ten non-contract claims against VP and Greensleeves for copyright infringement, fraud, unlawful appropriation and unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, tortious interference, and failure to provide accounting. The two-time Grammy-nominated singer and her company also sought a declaratory judgment, the imposition of a constructive trust upon VP, and a permanent injunction against the record company.
VP and Greensleeves did not move to dismiss the four contract claims, but they did seek to strike the ten non-contract claims from the matter. On Friday, December 30, 2022, after arguments were submitted by both sides on the motion, nine of the non-contract claims were dismissed by Judge Woods because he felt that they were not “plausibly stated.” However, the judge did not dismiss the allegations of fraud against VP and Greensleeves.
The judge also dismissed the claim of copyright infringement, stating that “the complaint fails to clearly identify McKenzie-Morris’s works that have been registered with the Copyright Office.” He dismissed the claims of unjust enrichment and conversion, saying that the “claims are preempted” by the Copyright Act. The tortious interference claim was dismissed because Etana and her company “failed to sufficiently plead the elements of that claim,” according to Woods’ ruling. The causes of action in relation to accounting and the imposition of a collective trust were dismissed because “Plaintiffs have failed to plead the existence of a fiduciary duty.”
“Finally, the Court will not grant Plaintiffs either a declaratory judgment or a permanent injunction. Both declaratory judgments and permanent injunctions are forms of relief, not independent causes of action,” the judge continued in the order.
This has been a lengthy and complicated case for Etana and the companies involved. It remains to be seen how the singer will amend her complaint in the coming weeks and how the case will proceed.