The estate of iconic hip-hop photographer Chi Modu has filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Group as owner and operator of the website UDiscoverMusic.com, alleging copyright infringement over the usage of one of Modu’s photos of Tupac Shakur in a blog post.
The lawsuit, filed last Friday (June 24) and reviewed by Billboard, was filed on behalf of the estate by its trustee Sophia Modu and points to a post titled “Best Tupac Songs: 26 Essential Tracks,” which bears the photo atop the page with a photo credit indicating Universal Music Archives. The complaint alleges that the estate sent a cease and desist to UMG and the site on Feb. 9, 2022 threatening a lawsuit, to which “Defendants failed to meaningfully respond,” it says. (It appears the original blog post was published to the site on June 16, 2019 — what would have been Shakur’s 48th birthday — and re-published on the same date in years after with slight modifications; the current publish date says June 16, 2022.)
The complaint is alleging copyright infringement by UMG and 10 unnamed co-defendants whose identities could not be determined by the estate, as well as vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement — alleging that defendants profited off the use of the copyrighted work — and that they violated 17 U.S. Code 1202 by removing Modu’s copyright information from the photograph before publishing it. The estate is demanding a jury trial and award of all profits and fees, as well as the removal of the photograph, and damages; statutory damages for copyright infringement can reach up to $150,000 per violation.
“Chi Modu’s photography captured moments of profundity and grace,” an attorney for the estate, Scott Burroughs, said in a statement provided to Billboard. “While it does not surprise me that it would appeal to Universal, we are disappointed that the company did not reach out to the Estate to procure a license before exploiting Mr. Modu’s work on its commercial website. We look forward to addressing this infringement in court.”
A rep for UMG did not respond to a request for comment; an email to the UDiscover Music website was not returned.
Modu, who died last year at age 54, rose to prominence in the 1990s as a photographer for some of the leading lights of the hip-hop world at the time, including Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Nas, Snoop Dogg, N.W.A and more. He was a photographer for pioneering hip-hop magazine The Source for a number of years, and his work has been featured on the covers of numerous magazines; the image of Shakur in question in this current lawsuit is one that appeared in the Rolling Stone book The ‘90s: The Inside Stories from the Decade That Rocked.
A decade ago, K-pop had already established itself as a force in Asia and found niche audiences around the world. But it was soon turned into a truly global phenomenon after Psy’s YouTube-breaking “Gangnam Style” went viral in the summer of 2012. Powered by a galloping dance and bonkers music video, K-pop became a buzz word that even your American parents suddenly knew about.
Six months earlier in 2012, though, a very different effort at introducing Korean pop to Western audiences had played out in the form of a made-for-TV movie, starring a septet who’d actually marked K-pop’s debut on the Billboard Hot 100 three years earlier.
The Wonder Girls was a 40-minute film starring the Korean group of the same name, co-produced by K-pop company JYP Entertainment and Nick Cannon’s N’Credible company, which premiered on the TeenNick channel in February 2012. The story follows the outfit on their first tour of the United States, with the Wonder Girls — at the time consisting of Kim Yu-bin, Park Ye-eun, Woo Hye-rim, Ahn So-hee and Min Sun-ye, on top of Korean entertainment after a string of hit singles and equally big across Asia — exploring New York city and getting into assorted hijinks. It culminates with them entering a talent competition at the Apollo Theater (where they face off against an American group called School Gyrls, from a different Cannon-produced movie). It’s a fish-out-of-water story geared towards younger audiences.
The TV movie became a K-pop curio, an obscure bit of trivia for fans. Yet a decade later, as K-pop has grown into a major entertainment force in the U.S., The Wonder Girls special seems more like an important moment in the history of Korean entertainment trying to break America, and one hinting at how future groups and companies would vault to the top of music and social media charts.
“The whole point of this was to introduce American audiences to K-pop,” The Wonder Girls writer Krystal M. Harris tells Billboard. “The Wonder Girls were super huge, can’t-walk-down-the-street celebrities at the time in Korea – but over here, not so much…”
K-pop heavyweights had attempted to cross over into the States before Wonder Girls, but with little success. The singer Rain embarked on an ultimately doomed North American tour in 2007, while ‘00s superstar BoA released an English-language album in 2009, complete with hype-generating music videos, but was met with middling sales outside of her home region.
Wonder Girls had debuted in 2006 as the first girl group in Park Jin-young’s eponymous JYP Entertainment stable. They quickly gained popularity, before the 2008 retro-tinged number “Nobody” turned them into a greater regional force. Their ambitions grew.
“It was about January 2009 when we were invited to JYP’s U.S. concert as the opening guest, and we heard that people loved our performance,” former Wonder Girls’ member Kim Yu-bin, better known as Yubin, says via email to Billboard. “That’s when we started trying to enter the U.S. market.
The quintet became the first K-pop group to mount a serious push into the U.S. market. They signed with Creative Artists Agency and, in a preview of how Korean artists would come to use U.S. talk shows as a launch pad, appeared on The Wendy Williams Show to perform a song and quickly introduce themselves. Most notably, they served as one of the opening acts for The Jonas Brothers, then at the peak of their Disney-pop superstardom, on their 2009 U.S. tour.
It all would have just been a nice memory if Wonder Girls didn’t make history in the process. Propelled by the Jonas Brothers tour, “Nobody” debuted at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100. That was the first time a K-pop artist ever appeared on the chart. “Towards the end of the tour, JYP told us we would be starring in a movie,” Yubin says.
The film needed a director, and it found one in music video director Ethan Ladern – who previously worked with artists such as B.o.B, OneRepublic and Bruno Mars. A producer he knew worked closely with Cannon, and he eventually was brought on to direct. “We were doing a grand introduction of the Wonder Girls to the States,” Ladder tells Billboard. It was obviously important that we wanted to show off their singing skills and their talent, and it was about making them really fun.”
Harris, meanwhile, had previously worked with Lader on music videos, and came on board initially as a cast director. First, though, everyone involved needed a first draft of the script to come in. “The script was…a bit offensive,” Harris says. “We were putting Koreans into America, and the script was relying on stereotypical jokes.” She stepped up and volunteered to take a look at it.
She cleaned up the rough bits – which, beyond racist gags, also included the main American character and love interest of member Yenny being named “DJ Nuts, or something relating to a man’s parts.” She changed his name to DJ Skillz, and tightened everything else up, all without losing the TeenNick vibe. “I didn’t have a huge background in anything Korean, but I know when something is a bit insensitive,” she says.
The Wonder Girls earned Harris her first professional writing credit. She still had to cast the film too, which presented further challenges. “It was a non-union film, so that means my talent pool was going to be a lot of green actors,” Harris says. She describes many auditions as “very, very interesting” – but with some diamonds present, such as Wes Aderhold, who was cast as DJ Skillz. “He just knew how to smolder in the right teen way.”
At the time, Aderhold was a fledgling actor based in Los Angeles with only a few credits to his name. “I obviously wanted to portray a DJ authentically, so I watched countless videos of DJs and went to my friends who spin and mix, and watch them,” Aderhold tells Billboard of how he prepared for shooting, alongside working with his acting coach at the time.
The Wonder Girls prepped too, for what would be one of their first forays into acting. “We took acting classes as a group and worked on our English pronunciation and language skills,” Woo Hye-rim, better known as Lim, tells Billboard through email. “Thankfully, our characters were based on our real-life personalities, so it wasn’t that hard to get into the character.”
Language, though, loomed as a challenge. Prior to shooting The Wonder Girls, the group had only needed to use English in a handful of promotional situations, like their aforementioned TV appearances (though Yubin spent part of high school in San Jose). “It was hard enough to act in Korean, but to act in English was even more challenging,” Yubin says. “There was a scene where we had to argue, and that was the most challenging for us. Just imagine having a serious argument with broken English. That was hilarious. It was really hard to keep a straight face.”
Lader, on the other hand, doesn’t remember there being many hurdles for the group – recalling early takes coming off as dry, but with everyone finding their rhythm gradually. “Actually, what I remember was during dress rehearsals, the girls already knowing everything by heart,” he says. “They came prepared and were ready to take the challenge.” Aderhold noticed the same professionalism while acting with them. “I don’t believe any of the girls had acted before. So there was this excitement of doing something for the first time and realizing they were really good at it. That was fun energy to play off of.”
Everyone interviewed about the actual filming of The Wonder Girls recalls it being fun, albeit frantic to finish everything in a short amount of time. Visual gags happened in the moment — including JYP, playing the role of overprotective manager, opting to wear silly pajamas and an eye mask in one scene — while unforeseen challenges like filming above a kickboxing gym added unforeseen stress (“Everytime the ‘ding’ happened between rounds, that’s when we shoot scenes,” Lader says).
“I want to say the Wonder Girls got like three hours of sleep, because they were shooting with us for 12, 15 hours, and then they’d rehearse their dance sequences and then they’d have to be back on set early in the morning,” Harris says.
Some of the fond memories stem from The Wonder Girls’ off-set freedom. Harris recalls the crew talking about making plans to go out, “and the girls were so excited about it because nobody was going to know who they were. They weren’t going to be hounded like they usually were when they went out. For this one moment in time, they were able to just be young women, having fun.”
The film premiered in February 2012, at a time when K-pop was taking more serious strides into the U.S. market. At the same time as The Wonder Girls, compatriots Girls’ Generation promoted their English-language release “The Boys” on American TV shows, including a somewhat surreal performance on The David Letterman Show with Bill Murray and Regis Philbin watching on. In July of that year, Wonder Girls shared their big swing at the English-language markets (and a number previewed in their movie), “Like Money,” featuring Akon and a video directed by Lader, featuring the Wonder Girls reimagined as cyborgs. While performing well on Korean charts, the song largely breezed by the intended American audiences.
Five days after that clip debuted, though, “Gangnam Style” appeared on YouTube. Its soon-to-be mega-success underlined something the K-pop industry had actually taken advantage of before and what would become necessary moving forward – easy access online. The Wonder Girls could only be viewed when TeenNick broadcast it (or through illegal streaming sites) in 2012. Currently, the best place to view it is on YouTube via fan uploads.
“I often watch the clips on YouTube — the movie makes me feel refreshed,” Yubin says, while Hyerim also says she revisits it via these unofficial uploads.
The lack of access hurt its overall reach, but The Wonder Girls did foreshadow an approach that would become crucial in K-pop’s future promotion — creating a shared bond between fan and performer. “Just like the message we give in the movie, we wanted to share our journey with our fans; the journey to success in the U.S. as a foreign idol group from South Korea,” Hyerim says.
Despite being scripted, the movie aimed to show new viewers who the members of this group were, while also giving existing fans a different perspective on their favorites. This approach is commonplace today, whether through social media or more slice-of-life offerings like Blackpink’s Netflix documentary or aespa’s New York trip diary (including a chat with Nick Cannon).
“In my experience, they were really the first time time a group came out like, ”I want to go to the States. I want to plant our flag, and have K-pop be recognized for how amazing it is,” Lader says. “Now flash forward to someone like BTS, and if there aren’t those forebearers leading the way, they don’t get the same opportunity.”
Lader is still directing music videos, for artists such as David Guetta and NLE Choppa, while working on other projects. Aderhold recently moved to New York to pursue artistic ambitions, and says that the last time he saw the movie “was two or three years ago…my friends put it on the big screen, while we were having mimosas.” Harris kept in touch with The Wonder Girls via Facebook for a bit after, and focused on her acting and writing career.
The Wonder Girls marked the first serious effort to introduce K-pop into the United States, a process that has paid off in recent years. Yet for Yubin, there’s something more personal to it: “The most fabulous thing is that the movie allowed me to reminisce about our time in the U.S. The people that I met during shooting the film and the experience that I was on the scene are unforgettably precious to me.”
The Wonder Girls never pushed too much into the U.S. market after 2012, and the group disbanded in 2017. While not held up as an important step in K-pop’s push into the United States, The Wonder Girls marked the moment of an industry’s ambitions becoming much more serious.
“It was a brand new market not only for our group, but for a K-pop group to debut in the U.S.,” Hyerim recalls. “Regardless of the result, I enjoyed the challenge as I believe it made our group stronger as a team and also left us with such a special memory. If I could turn back time, I would do the same without a doubt.”
When the church doors open, only white people will be allowed inside.
That’s the message the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock, Minnesota, is sending after being granted a conditional use permit to open a church there and practice its pre-Christian religion that originated in northern Europe.
Despite a council vote officially approving the permit this month, residents are pushing back against the decision.
Opponents have collected about 50,000 signatures on an online petition to stop the all-white church from making its home in the farming town of 280 people.
“I think they thought they could fly under the radar in a small town like this, but we’d like to keep the pressure on them,” said Peter Kennedy, a longtime Murdock resident. “Racism is not welcome here.”
Many locals said they support the growing population of Latinos, who have moved to the area in the past decade because of job opportunities, over the church.
“Just because the council gave them a conditional permit does not mean that the town and people in the area surrounding will not be vigilant in watching and protecting our area,” Jean Lesteberg, who lives in the neighboring town of De Graff, wrote on the city’s Facebook page.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Asatru Folk Assembly as a “neo-Volkisch hate group” that couches “their bigotry in baseless claims of bloodlines grounding the superiority of one’s white identity.”
Many residents call them a white supremacist or white separatist group, but church members deny it.
“We’re not. It’s just simply not true,” said Allen Turnage, a folk assembly board member. “Just because we respect our own culture, that doesn’t mean we are denigrating someone else’s.”
The group, based in Brownsville, California, says teachings and membership are for those of strictly European bloodlines.
The church was looking for a new church in the eastern North Dakota region when they came across Murdock. It’s unknown how many members they have worldwide or how many people will attend the new church.
“We do not need salvation. All we need is freedom to face our destiny with courage and honor,” the group wrote on its website about their beliefs. “We honor the Gods under the names given to them by our Germanic/Norse ancestors.”
Their forefathers, according to the website, were “Angels and Saxons, Lombards and Heruli, Goths and Vikings, and, as sons and daughters of these people, they are united by ties of blood and culture undimmed by centuries.”
“We respect the ways our ancestors viewed the world and approached the universe a thousand years ago,” Turnage said.
Murdock council members said they do not support the church but were legally obligated to approve the permit, which they did in a 3-1 decision.
“We were highly advised by our attorney to pass this permit for legal reasons to protect the First Amendment rights,” Mayor Craig Kavanagh said. “We knew that if this was going to be denied, we were going to have a legal battle on our hands that could be pretty expensive.”
City Attorney Don Wilcox said it came down to free speech and freedom of religion.
“I think there’s a great deal of sentiment in the town that they don’t want that group there,” he said. “You can’t just bar people from practicing whatever religion they want or saying anything they want as long as it doesn’t incite violence.”
The farming town about a 115-mile drive west of Minneapolis is known for producing corn and soybeans, which are shipped across the country. Latinos make up about 20 percent of Murdock’s small population. Many are day laborers from Mexico and Central America, city officials said.
“We’re a welcoming community,” Kennedy said, rejecting the Asatru Folk Assembly’s exclusionary beliefs. “That’s not at all what the people of Murdock feel. Nobody had a problem with the Hispanics here.”
The AFA purchased its building this year on property in a residential zone. Constructed as a Lutheran church before the zoning was changed, it was later converted to a private residence. The folk assembly needed the permit to convert the residence back to a church.
“It’s ironic the city council didn’t want to commit discrimination against the church, but the church is discriminating against Blacks,” said Abigail Suiter, 33, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “It’s very telling of where the priority is and whose lives matter.”
Prominent lawyers disagree on the council’s options heading into the vote. Some of the debate centered on the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects religious institutions and churches from unduly burdens and discriminatory land-use regulations.
Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said the council might have been able to prevent the private sale of the property, had it known about it, through laws focused on forbidding racial discrimination in property transactions.
“No institution that proposes to exclude people on account of race is allowed to run an operation in the state of Minnesota,” Tribe said.
Kavanagh said he stands by the council vote “for legal reasons only.”
“The biggest thing people don’t understand is, because we’ve approved this permit, all of a sudden everyone feels this town is racist, and that isn’t the case,” he said. “Just because we voted yes doesn’t mean we’re racist.”
A video showing an elderly Asian man being slapped across the face as he hands some money back to a young man and his friends staying at his Airbnb in Chicago has been circulating on social media.
The footage, first posted on Dec. 7 at 10 p.m., shows an elderly Asian man handing some cash back to a group of friends before being slapped by one of them.
The elderly man was visibly taken aback by the assault.
Social media users initially believed the location of the incident to be a store in Chicago after the original uploader of the video, “Slick Getem,” wrote in the caption, “Somebody said Made his ass think abt the cat he put innat Chinese food.”
One of the people who claimed to be in the group involved in the incident told NextShark that the man was the owner of the Airbnb they were staying at in Chicago.
They claim the elderly man hit their friend and that the video was blown out of proportion. They added that they can’t make their page public after receiving hate and threats. The Facebook user has since deleted their page. The user who originally uploaded the video also changed his name to “Sli Ck.”
Comments on a Facebook post criticizing the group claimed they were kicked out of the rented Airbnb for being “loud and smoking.”
TikTok user KarmaChibana, who has more than 800,000 followers on the platform, caught wind of the video and reacted to it.
“That is not an excuse to use racial stereotypes against him and slap him in the face,” Karma starts off.
“Just like how the Asian and other communities were there for our movement, why can’t we do the same for them? To my Black brothers and sisters, we have to do better. We need to stand up for our Asian brothers and sisters. I know there’s anti-Black within their community, but we shouldn’t generalize.”
NextShark reached out to the Chicago Police Department which could not verify the location of the incident.
Australian children musical group The Wiggles have apologized after their song about Indian cuisine resurfaced online and sparked backlash for being “insensitive.”
Back in 2014, the group was a part of the show called Ready, Steady, Wiggle!. They had performed a song called The Pappadum Song in the Lachy’s Pappadum Party episode.
The performers were seen wearing Indian garb and singing along to lyrics that mostly went by, “Pappadum, pappadum, pappa pappa pappa dum.”
At one point, Anthony Field danced with a cricket bat, while the rest of the group held the Indian flatbread behind him.
Many Twitter users weren’t pleased with the video for perpetuating the stereotypes tied to Indian culture. “My jaw hit the floor the first time I saw it. Very, very culturally insensitive, and such a stereotype,” one user wrote.
“I wrote the song, and directed the clip in 2014 (which was meant as a celebration),” Field wrote on Twitter. “It was not my intention to be culturally insensitive to the Indian community or to add value to ethnic stereotyping. Apologies.”
Yep, the ‘Face with Medical Mask’ emoji has become an unlikely symbol of everyday life for 2020, meaning it’s no longer relevant just for those working in clinical settings – and now it’s had an upgrade.
Following its newfound fame, Apple has recently updated the face so that it looks a little more cheerful, to show that wearing a mask is no bad thing.
The new version of the emoji comes with Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 14.2, which is currently in beta stage and expected to release in late October or early November 2020.
Before, the emoji had exasperated downturned eyes, and looked a bit sorry for itself. But after its makeover, the face not only has cheerful blushing cheeks, but its happy eyes imply there’s even a smile going on under that covering.
As COVID-19 swept the country this year, millions of young adults retreated to familiar territory: living at home with mom and dad.
A majority of young Americans ages 18 to 29 are now living with at least one of their parents, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data. About 52% of this age group, 26.6 million people in total, were living with their parents in July, compared to 47% at the same time last year. This number surpassed the previous record of 48%, which was set in 1940, during the Great Depression.
Since the proportion of 18 to 29 year olds living at home hit a low of 29% in 1960, the number has risen over the decades, jumping to 36% in 1990, to 38% in 2000 and 44% in 2010. However, the increase this year is notably sharp, and tracks with the trajectory of the pandemic; while about 46% or 47% of young adults lived at home through 2019, in 2020 the number jumped to 49% in March, 51% in April and 52% from May through July.
With its suggestive name “Meat District,” the line of burger products from food manufacturing company Golden West Food Group is being criticized for perpetuating racial stereotypes in the branding of one of its labels.
The particular product in question is the “Kanpai burger,” a type of patty made with American wagyu beef.
The use of a silhouette of an apparent geisha on meat products captured the attention of a Costco shopper who posted a photo of it on Twitter. Geishas are traditional female Japanese entertainers thought to have come about in 17th century Japan.