Roc-A-Fella Records Sues Co-Founder Over NFT of Jay-Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’


In brief

Roc-A-Fella Records is suing Damon Dash for allegedly trying to sell an NFT tied to Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt.”
Dash founded the label with Jay-Z and Kareem Burke.

Roc-A-Fella—the storied hip-hop label that launched the careers of Jay-Z and Kanye West—is suing one of its co-founders over an NFT.

A lawsuit filed in federal court last week claims Damon Dash was planning to sell an NFT tied to Jay-Z’s debut album, “Reasonable Doubt,” on an online marketplace called SuperFarm. The album was released on Roc-A-Fella in 1996.

The label was founded by Jay, Dash, and Kareem Burke; Roc-A-Fella is saying that while each co-founder owns a third of the company, Dash has no individual rights to any of Roc-A-Fella’s recordings, including “Reasonable Doubt,” and that he can’t sell what he doesn’t own.

The NFT auction was canceled, but the complaint alleges Dash is still “frantically scouting for another venue to make the sale.”

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are a kind of cryptocurrency that can be sold as proof of ownership for files on the internet (usually JPEGs, GIFs, and short videos). They had a moment in the sun this past winter, as NFTs attached to digital artworks began selling for millions of dollars at major auction houses; musicians like Grimes, Kings of Leon, Yaeji, and 3LAU have cashed in on the craze.

The Roc-A-Fella lawsuit surfaces longstanding questions about the relationship between NFTs and copyright. NFT purchases in and of themselves don’t guarantee legal rights to a file. You can’t sell rights you don’t have, but does selling an NFT mean selling any rights at all?

Roc-A-Fella’s complaint specifically alleges that Dash was trying to auction “the copyright to Reasonable Doubt” as an NFT.

‘Tis the season for “Reasonable Doubt”-related lawsuits, apparently: last week, Jay-Z sued the photographer who shot the “Reasonable Doubt” cover for selling prints of the image on his personal website.

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