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Hudson drummer clears first hurdle in MTV suit over Minaj documentary

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Michael Savely of Jersey City has fended off MTV’s bid to have a federal privacy complaint dismissed for including four seconds of him drumming, without his consent, in a documentary about rapper Nicki Minaj. But a judge has ordered the stick-twirler to amend his lawsuit or it will be dropped.

Savely, Minaj

Savely — aka Mike Alaska — was playing on a New York subway platform last November when, he said, a videographer for MTV shot footage that made its way into the program.

Savage sued, claiming his image was hurt by the sometimes profane, often provacatively dressed Minja, who he said “glorifies a specific lifestyle” that neither he nor his drum-lesson students condone.

U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton in Newark dismissed Savely’s invasion of privacy counts based on misappropriation of likeness and on publication of private facts, because, among other reasons, he was performing in public. However, she denied MTV’s motion to dismiss a count in the suit for invasion of privacy based on “false light” usage.

She then gave Savely until Aug. 17 to recast the complaint based on her ruling.

Savely said men saying they were MTV representatives asked for his permission to record him and showed him a contract, but he said he wasn’t interested.

When a program about Minaj’s life and career aired near the end of the month, Savely found himself in a segment about Minaj returning to New York City to buy her family a home.

Savely said the association with Minaj has cut into his teaching business, which is based on parents’ beliefs that he will “provide their children with something modern yet not corrupt.” It also brought negative comments on his Facebook page and put a crimp in his sale of “Mike Alaska” t-shirts, Savely said.

The judge said Savely successfully argued that MTV appropriated his likeness without consent, which damaged his reputation. Her problem with the suit, Wigenton said, is that Savely didn’t properly argue that MTV capitalized on the drummer’s likeness to make money off its documentary.

She added that his claim “could be [pleaded] sufficiently if amended” to show that he received “unreasonable and highly objectionable publicity” that ties him to contradictory characteristics, conduct or beliefs. But not as it stands now, she said. However, she gave him a second chance to get it right — possibly indicating that she could be inclined to eventually rule in his favor.

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