Is Ray J Entitled to Money from the Sale of the Kim K. Sex Tape?

Late last week TMZ reported that an anonymous buyer had, through a lawyer in Tennessee, expressed interest in purchasing the rights to Kim K. Superstar from adult entertainment company Vivid. The sex tape featured singer Ray J and a then unknown Kim Kardashian in the throes of passion and became an overnight media sensation. The ‘tape’ made Brandy‘s little brother relevant again and launched a million-dollar Kardashian empire that includes everything from reality shows to a signature fragrance.

In a letter to Vivid’s chairman Steve Hirsch, the lawyer for the anonymous buyer makes an offer to buy the rights to the tape and claims the private party had no intention of reproducing or distributing the X-rated video—they simply want it off the market. Speculation that the mystery buyer is somehow connected to the Kardashian clan seems likely but is as yet unconfirmed.

But wait a minute, what about Ray J? The other person featured in the tape? Upon hearing of the inquiry into buying the tape Ray J’s attorney sent a letter to Vivid’s Hirsch stating that his client is a partial copyright holder on the tape and that Ray J should be a part of any deal to transfer ownership of that copyright (read: “I need to get paid, too”).  But is Ray J entitled to a piece of the action?

Well, maybe, but it’s all together complicated according to attorney Dominick Cromartie of Davis & Gilbert, one of the foremost firms in the realm of media and intellectual property law. “Ray J could have rights in the video,” says Cromartie. “Similar to the claims Kim Kardashian asserted against Vivid, Ray J could have common law as well as statutory rights to the use of his image in the sex tape, i.e., right of publicity. Right of publicity laws protect the commercial misappropriation of the use of one’s image.  Such rights are particularly valuable to celebrities who earn significant sums for the use of their image.”

Cromartie speculates that though right of publicity may give Ray J a stake in this, his hesitation to take legal action back when Kim did may work against him. “What makes Ray J’s case complicated is that presumably he could have asserted his claims against Vivid at the same time that Kim filed her lawsuit,” he explains. “And the statute of limitations may bar his claim if he asserted it today.”

But what the news media doesn’t know will really dictate whether Ray J gets a cut of the potential sale price.  Cromartie reminds us  that though we’re privy to some information via gossip sites what goes on behind the scenes will really determine what happens. “It is possible that Ray J entered into a confidential agreement with Vivid for the use of his image in the film,” says Cromartie. “That agreement may provide him with additional rights in the event that the tape was sold.  So his public statements that the current purchase price of $30 million being ‘too low’ may refer to an existing confidential agreement that allows Ray J to approve the sale of the tape by Vivid. Of course, without having seen any agreement, this is all speculation.”
Needless to say the lawyers for all parties involved have their work cut out for them, and the question remains: Does Ray J deserve a cut of the profits?