Floyd Mayweather followed up his recent victory in the ring against Canelo Alvarez with a victory in the courtroom against Anthony Dash. Dash filed a lawsuit against Mayweather and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) alleging that they violated his copyright by playing a variant of Dash’s music during Mayweather’s entrance at two WWE wresting events.
The Fourth Circuit recently upheld dismissal of the suit on the grounds that Dash failed to provide evidence of his damages .
By way of background, Dash composed an instrumental “beat” in 2005 that he referred to as the “Tony Gunz Beat” or “TGB.” He alleges that Mayweather and another individual co-wrote lyrics and recorded them over TGB to create song entitled “Yep.” This song was played as intro music when Mayweather appeared at two WWE events, Wrestlemania and RAW, in 2008 and 2009. Dash alleges that the use of “Yep” at the event infringed on his copyright and caused him economic damage of around $150,000.
In an lengthy opinion, the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s dismissal of the case on the grounds that Dash had not presented non-speculative evidence to support his claim for damages. The district court had concluded that Dash was not entitled to actual damages because he had not offered “sufficient, concrete evidence to indicate an actual value of his beat.” The Fourth Circuit noted that actual damages are to be calculated based on what a reasonable buyer would pay a reasonable seller. Dash had presented an expert report stating that he could have received up to $3,000 for use of TGB if he had been paid a licensing fee. However, the court found this report to be overly speculative.
The decision seemed to rest in large part on the fact that the value of songs are highly variable and depend on a number of factors. Those factors include popularity of the work, the reputation of the songwriter, the presence of a released sound recording, and the possibility of a new recording in the studio. The plaintiff’s expert failed to address these factors in reaching his opinion.
Of course, one could argue that trying to determine value of any song, whether from a well known artist or not, is highly speculative. Music labels sign hundreds of artists per year hoping that one or two can become next Coldplay or Carrier Underwood. While most don’t make it big, the ones that do tend to make it really, really big. Figuring out which ones make it and which ones don’t is the hard part. Either way, it’s nice to see the that Mayweather can get back to more important things like attempting to win money on the shoulders of Johnny Football.