VAN NUYS, Calif. – A judge has ruled that UMG Recordings Inc. owns vintage footage of the late rapper Tupac Shakur and has also dismissed a Van Nuys video director’s claim that he is the rightful owner.
Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Valerie Salkin issued her rulings Wednesday in the suit brought in September 2020 by Stephen Blake, who sought a court confirmation that he owned the video, which included an interview he conducted with Shakur. The judge found that Blake’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations.
Blake alleged UMG wrongfully failed to acknowledge the footage belongs to him. He said the contents became highly relevant in the aftermath of a period of social unrest in the U.S. in 2020 and that he wanted to offer the footage for sale at auction.
UMG predecessor Interscope Records hired Blake in late 1992 to produce a music video for Shakur called, “Holler If You Hear Me,” according to the suit. Interscope executive Tom Whalley, for whom Blake had previously produced music videos, asked the plaintiff to be in charge of the Shakur video, the suit stated.
UMG attorneys argued in their court papers in favor of dismissal of Blake’s suit that the production agreement provides that Interscope, not Blake, owns the footage and that the plaintiff filed his suit too late. UMG also countersued Blake, asking that a judge declare them the owners of the footage, and the judge granted UMG’s motion Wednesday.
“The court finds there are no triable issues … and (that) UMG is entitled as a matter of law to a declaration that UMG is the rightful owner of the (footage) and that Blake has no right to possess, sell, auction, transfer or otherwise exploit the (video),” the judge wrote.
Shakur, then 25, died Sept. 13, 1996, six days after being shot in a drive-by incident in Las Vegas.