TVT Decision Reversed

A 2003 ruling against Island Def Jam Music and CEO Lyor Cohen for $132 million by indie label TVT has been whittled down to $126,720 on appeal.

A federal appeals court in New York said there was insufficient evidence for the jury to conclude IDJ had defrauded TVT, and the plaintiff walked away with a much smaller award resulting from a breach-of-contract claim that IDJ did not appeal.

The 2003 decision shocked the industry because of its hefty award, which included $108 million in punitive damages. The award was reduced soon afterward to $54 million by an appeals court judge, and was finally knocked to the current figure June 14th.

TVT Records took Island Def Jam Music Group to court over a dispute involving Ja Rule and his old band, Cash Money Click. According to the lawsuit, the rapper, who was once with TVT, wished to record with his former cohorts and release the record on TVT.

The suit said Cohen agreed to the release through TVT in a profit-sharing arrangement. Then, after the indie label spent $400,000 in advance work for the record and hundreds of thousands more to finance the production, Def Jam refused to relinquish rights to its artist. To add to the matter, the lawsuit said, Def Jam released one of the tracks from the unreleased album on Murder Inc. without TVT’s permission.

Def Jam and Cohen were found liable for fraud, copyright infringement and breach of contract by a jury in New York Federal Court.

The latest reversal would be appealed, according to TVT’s attorney, Peter Haviland.

“We were forced to bring this action in part because Mr. Cohen and Def Jam denied the existence of a contract critical to our business,” Haviland said. This court has affirmed that we did have a contract and that the defendants broke it. This is not over, and we look forward to the next round.”

In the meantime, Cohen’s personal attorney said his side of the aisle was delighted in the decision, which reversed findings of liability and fraud, and found no credible evidence to support the claims against his client.