Intellectual Property Attorney

Kanye West ‘Bound’ for Lawsuit Over Use of Ricky Spicer’s Voice in “Bound 2”

Superstar hip-hop artist Kanye West was named as a defendant last week in a lawsuit filed by Ricky Spicer, former lead vocalist for ‘The Ponderosa Twins plus One’. Spicer alleges West used his vocals “at least” four times in the single ‘Bound 2’ without his permission. The lawsuit also names Roc-A-Fella Records, Inc., Universal Music Group, Inc., and Island Def Jam Music Group as defendants.

According to the Complaint, Spicer became the ‘plus one’ in the Ponderosa Twins plus One at the age of 12, when he was discovered by a representative of Suru Records at a local talent show in Ohio. The Ponderosa Twins plus One recorded the single ‘Bound’ around 1970. The Complaint alleges that Spicer’s “voice can distinctly be heard throughout the song, including its chorus” singing the lyrics “Bound, bound/Bound to fall in love”. Interestingly, Spicer’s Complaint prominently intertwines allegations that Spicer was taken advantage of by adults in his life who failed to adequately protect him and, as a result, he never received fair compensation for his work. For example, the Complaint alleges that Spicer never received payment for performances held throughout the 1970s and that, overall, Spicer was never “fairly compensated” for his work. The Complaint specifically alleges that: “Lacking substantial parental protection, the adults in Mr. Spicer’s life, including [Chuck] Brown, took advantage of his work product.”

Spicer’s suit claims that the chorus of “Bound” is used at least four times throughout ‘Bound 2’ and that his “voice is sampled exactly as he recorded it and his voice, altered by the Defendants, is also heard several times.” The Complaint notes that the use of his voice is without authorization and that Spicer has not received any compensation. Spicer raises three causes of action: (i) violation of New York’s “right of publicity” statute (New York CLS Civ. R. § 51) (which provides protection for the unauthorized use of a person’s name, portrait, picture or voice); (ii) unjust enrichment; and (iii) copyright infringement. Spicer is seeking damages as well as an “immediate injunction enjoining Defendant from any further unauthorized use or exploitation of Plaintiff’s name”. (The reference to Spicer’s “name” strikes us as a potential error since the Complaint is focused on his “voice” and not his name).

The lawsuit is Spicer v. Roc-A-Fella Records, Inc., et al. (Index No. 161761/2013) filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Manhattan on December 23, 2013. A copy of the
Complaint is available at the Hollywood Reporter.

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