Ghostface Killah is once again facing a copyright infringement lawsuit stemming from the rapper’s Supreme Clientele after an appeals court ruled that composer Jack Urbont, who wrote the “Iron Man Theme” for the Sixties cartoon Marvel Super Heroes, could revive his suit against Ghostface and Sony Music.
Urbont previously sued Ghostface and Sony Music in 2011, arguing that the rapper’s Supreme Clientele opener “Intro” and closer “Iron’s Theme – Conclusion” heavily sampled the “Iron Man Theme.” The lawsuit, filed nearly a dozen years after the Wu-Tang rapper released that solo LP, was initially struck down after Sony made the case that, since Urbont was under the employ of Marvel at the time of composing the theme, it constituted a “work made for hire,” meaning Urbont didn’t own the rights to “Iron Man Theme,” The Hollywood Reporter writes.
However, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that April 2015 decision, especially the initial court ruling that the “Iron Man Theme” was a “work for hire.” In a ruling made Friday, second circuit judge Peter Hall stated that the judge who initially heard the case shouldn’t have categorized Urbont’s theme as a “work for hire,” since it could be argued that Urbont owns the rights to “Iron Man Theme.” Urbont is listed as composer on the song’s 1966 registration. However, the matter of ownership is between Urbont and Marvel, not Urbont and Sony.
Furthermore, the judge determined that, even if Urbont doesn’t own the rights, Ghostface Killah and the song’s producer RZA likely infringed on the theme’s audiovisual rights; a recording of “Iron Man Theme” was never officially released, meaning that RZA likely lifted the sample from the Marvel Super Heroes show itself.
“While Urbont may possess a ‘master tape,’ it is undisputed that prior to the release of the Supreme Clientele album in 2000, the sound recording of the Iron Man theme song was never released as an independent audio recording without a visual component,” Hall wrote in his decision. “It is clear in this case that the allegedly infringing work could only have been copied form the audiovisual work, and therefore constitutes infringement of the audiovisual work.”
However, since Marvel has never come after Ghostface legally for frequently using the “Ironman”/”Tony Starks” alias – the rapper even filmed a cameo for the first Iron Man, a scene that was ultimately deleted from the film – it’s unlikely they would file a lawsuit 16 years after Supreme Clientele‘s release.