Reggae singer Etana has returned to the fight—with a scaled-down complaint against her former label VP Records over breach of contract and copyright infringement, and a new demand for over US$10 million in damages—after a New York judge partially dismissed her previous complaint last month.
In the amended complaint, filed on Friday (January 13), the Wrong Address singer and her company Freemind Music LLC are now making eight claims against the defendants VP Records Retail Outlet, Inc, VP Music Group Inc, VP Record Distributors LLC, VP Records of Brooklyn LLC, Greensleeves Publishing Ltd (GPL) and STB Music Inc (collectively VP and GPL).
The new filing comes after US District Court judge Gregory H. Woods ruled in VP and GPL’s favor to dismiss nine of Etana’s fourteen claims against the companies in a previous complaint. That decision, which was handed down on December 30, had given the singer two weeks to amend the deficiencies identified in her complaint or, alternatively, proceed with the five remaining claims.
Etana’s new complaint includes her previous claims of the breach of four contracts—two recording agreements with VP, a songwriter agreement with GPL, and a co-publishing and admin agreement with GPL—which were signed between the years 2007 and 2014 when Etana released four albums.
VP and GPL are accused of, among other things, failing to provide “formal accounting” and failure to pay Etana royalties, and other monies allegedly due to her under the deals. In one of the four contract claims, the singer alleged that despite delivering the four albums required under the first recording agreement and VP having recouped its advances and expenses associated with the deal, the company stopped paying royalties for the albums since March 2020.
She is seeking $250,000 in damages for each of the four contract claims, according to the court filing obtained by DancehallMag.
Etana’s allegation of copyright infringement has also resurfaced in the amended complaint as her fifth claim. But this time, the singer and her lawyers, Miami Entertainment Law Group, have distinguished which of her works have a valid Certificate of Copyright registration.
Her allegations of fraud, which were not entirely dismissed by Judge Woods in the previous complaint, have also returned in the revised complaint as her sixth claim against both VP and GPL. She is seeking $5,000,000 in damages as a result of, among other things, a named VP executive’s alleged misrepresentation that the company was a separate entity from GPL, when in fact they had just acquired GPL. According to Etana, she would not have signed the GPL songwriter agreement in 2008, if the acquisition had been disclosed to her.
Interestingly, she also accused the company of intentionally failing to pursue RIAA gold and platinum certifications, in order to “hide the true number of artist sales,” and of rendering “dishonest and grossly deficient accounting statements.”
While Judge Woods had also dismissed Etana’s claims of Tortious Interference and Unfair Competition in December, they have also resurfaced in the revised complaint as her seventh and final claims. The singer’s lawyers more pointedly outlined why they believed that she was damaged by the allegations and are seeking $2,000,000 for each of the two claims.
In addition to a judgment assessing damages in excess of $10,000,000 for her eight claims, the singer has also demanded compensatory damages in an amount not less than $250,000, punitive and exemplary damages, in a sum to be determined, interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Of note, Etana has demanded a bench trial, which will see the judge solely deciding the outcome of the case.
On January 4, VP and GPL, represented by Fox Rothschild LLP, indicated that they would file a response to any revised complaint within 14 days, the court records show.
In 2008, VP released Etana’s debut album The Strong One, which featured her breakout single Wrong Address, her biggest solo hit I Am Not Afraid, and her hit collab with Alborosie, Blessing. Three more albums followed on VP, namely Free Expressions (2011), Better Tomorrow (2013), and I Rise (2014), which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.
She then went independent and released Reggae Forever (2018) under Tads International.
Dimensions EP (2019), Gemini (2020), and Pamoja (2021) were released under Freemind Music.
Reggae Forever and Pamoja earned Etana two Grammy Award nominations for Best Reggae Album.