We see it all the time. A rapper uses a sample on a record then years down the line, the original composer comes for them in court. It happened most recently with Wu-Tang Clan heavyweight, Ghostface Killah. In 2011, Jacques “Jack” Urbont sued Ghostface (government name, Dennis Coles) for using his composition used for the 1966 ‘Ironman’ cartoon on his classic album, Supreme Clientele in 2000. A judge recently ruled in favor of Urbont.
The main reason Urbont took down Ghostface is because of Ghostface’s failure to appear for proceedings. He, in face, got ghost. Nobody could find him. Urbont’s hired private investigator couldn’t even track Ghostface down. After this, the judge granted Urbont permission to serve Ghost through a publication notice, but that didn’t work either. Ghostface’s lawyer couldn’t even find him and quit the case after not being paid.
In the end, the judge handed down a default judgment, granting statutory damages that shouldn’t total more than $150,000. Though this ruling does not involve them, Sony Records also could face a lawsuit from Urbont.
Ghostface’s only words on the matter came in 2012 when he told Grantland:
“I think it’s an old man,” he said, referring to Urbont. “I think they woke this dude up or something. He ain’t Stan Lee or anything but I guess he’s somebody because he ain’t stopping. It’s like, [why] you coming to me? Go to Sony man, don’t come at me. But that’s what it is. This, this is the game, man. Everybody out for they bread, whatever they could see, they tryna get it.”