Bad Boy impresario Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has until the end of the month to respond to a lawsuit that was filed against him by three songwriters who are accusing him of cheating them out of millions of dollars.
The $4 million suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by Universal-MCA Music Publishing, accuses Combs and Bad Boy of trying to swindle three writers out of royalties for six songs from Puffy's 1997 album, No Way Out. Among the songs cited is the #1 hit "I'll Be Missing You," which was written in memory of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. and revolves around major chunks of the Police track "Every Breath You Take."
An attorney for the publishing company and the writers Todd Gaither, Jeremy Graham and singer Kelly Price says that, although the album sold over 5 million copies, the writers have received no royalties because of an unfair and "fraudulent" record label policy that places a cap on the mechanical royalties the label will pay for an album. Since No Way Out had already exceeded that amount through sample clearance, there was nothing left to pay the writers.
However, an attorney for Universal-MCA Publishing said the writers never saw or signed any documents that explained the label's royalty rules, and were unaware they would receive no royalties for their work.
"Our writers co-wrote these songs and have received nothing from Combs," attorney Andrew Bart from the firm Pryor Cashman Sherman & Flynn said. "He played a shell game to his benefit and the detriment of the songwriters."
P. Diddy's spokeswoman Nathalie Moar was adamant that Combs did nothing wrong. "This lawsuit has absolutely no merit," she said.