By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Enforcing copyright in the Internet age is a Sisyphean task, and trying to protect one of the first big names to die young in the RapidShare world, Dilla’s estate has been beset with a dilemma that figures to plague families of all prematurely deceased musicians henceforth.
Explains Erk: “The problem is that Dilla was friendly with a lot of people — many of whom I know, many of whom I don’t — and there have been dozens of bootleg situations we’ve had to expend estate cash on to shut stuff down. If we don’t, it cheapens the value of his brand. We’re trying to protect his legacy and his heirs.”
Keeping track of the wealth of Dilla beats floating around the Web is practically impossible. Most notably, Busta Rhymes released a free Dillagence mixtape last year, featuring an introduction from Dilla’s mother, a matter that Erk claims is currently in mediation. This April, the recording masters of Pay Jay, Dilla’s never-released MCA record, were illicitly leaked to the Internet, sabotaging an estate plan to rerelease them at a yet-to-be-determined date. In a last-ditch effort to assert control over the heavily pirated material, the estate recently took out a full-page ad in Billboard, informing the industry that the only person, including friends and family, legally authorized to execute transactions or make any decisions regarding the commercial use of Dilla’s name, music, merchandise, photographs, video appearances, artwork, etc., is Erk.
“We’re not sure how many Dilla beats are floating around,” says Micheline Levine, Dilla’s former lawyer. “It’s been an absolute nightmare. [Erk] and I have been working without fees, and neither of us dreamed that copyright infringement would be so extensive and harmful to the estate. We’re trying to get the message out to third parties, who may in some convoluted way think they’re helping out the heirs but are really depriving them of income.”
A Dilla tribute is tentatively planned, as are several lawsuits against copyright infringers; both actions are meant to deliver at least a modicum of income beyond the modest royalties. With the gospel of Dilla secure and reasonably certain to grow, his legacy and brand certainly have the potential to provide for his children. Whether or not they do lies in his empire’s efficacy in striking back.