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Lymon's Teenagers Sue Lymon
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 1992
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Big Seven Music
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
Estate of Artist(s)
Goldner, George
Levy, Morris
Roulette Records
Other Lymon, Frankie (and the Teenagers)
Short Description When the 1950s singing group, The Teenagers, well known for their cuddly little singer Frankie Lymon, recorded their song "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," for Defendants Morris Levy and George Goldner and their record companies, they didn't realize they'd been duped out of copyright ownership. Levy and Goldner registered the song in their own names, including Lymon as well. The song was a huge success. By 1969, however, Plaintiffs became aware they'd been cheated, though Defendants allegedly intimidated them through the early 1980s, preventing them from filing suit of any sort. When the band members finally brought suit in 1987, a federal District Court found the two former-Teenagers (not Lymon, Levy, or Goldner) were the writers of the song. They were initially awarded royalties back to 1969, but follow-up cases limited this holding and whittled the reward to nothing. First, the court found the statute of liminations blocked all royalties other than those earned in the three years prior to filing suit. This finding arose from a similar suit for co-ownership brought by an illegitimate child of Hank Williams. But on appeal, the Second Circuit found the Williams case unrelated. The Circuit Court found that, when causes of action accrued so long ago, damages are available for recent time periods only when some uncertainty surrounded Plaintiffs' rights (e.g. uncertain parentage), which could explain the lag in legal action. Where, as here, Plaintiffs were aware of their rights, their causes of action accrued well outside the statute of limitations, which constituted an absolute bar to all recompense. If Plaintiffs had been unsure of their co-ownership rights, some damages may have been available. But Plaintiffs knew at the time of the song's authorship that they were co-owners, and thus no requisite uncertainty was present. Even assuming their actions were prevented by Defendants' actions, the statute of limitations kicked in at the very latest by the eary 1980s, when the band acknowledged to the media they'd been "bilked" out of ownership. Thus their lawsuit, filed in 1987, was too late. They later tried unsuccessfully to sue for trademark infringement (see "Teenagers vs. Frankie Lymon"). Their fates still turned out better than little Frankie, who died of a herion overdose in 1968 at the age of just 25. His estate was sued in this case. - LSW

Legal Issues
Copyrights Infringement Reproduction & Distribution/Dissemination
  Ownership Declaratory Judgment
    Joint Authorship, Works-for-Hire & Derivative Creations
General Affirmative Defenses Statutes of Limitation
  Equitable Defenses Laches
Torts Economic Torts Fraud, Misrepresentation & Inducement
Trademarks & Unfair Competition Federal (Lanham Act) Unfair Competition, False Advertising & Related Torts
  State Statute/Common Law Unfair Competition, False Advertising & Related Torts


Opinions Merchant v. Levy
92 F.3d 51
Second Circuit , August 07, 1996 ( Nos. 1322, 1653, 1768, Dockets 95-7763L, 95-7765CON, 95-7767XAP )


Merchant v. Lymon
1995 WL 217508
S.D. New York , April 11, 1995 ( No. 87 CIV. 7199 (BDP)(NRB) )


Merchant v. Lymon
848 F.Supp. 29
S.D. New York , March 23, 1994 ( No. 87 CIV. 7199 (BDP)(NRB) )


Merchant v. Lymon
828 F. Supp. 1048
S.D. New York , July 23, 1993 ( No. 87 CIV. 7199 (BDP)(NRB) )


Merchant v. Levy
1990 WL 160671
S.D. New York , October 12, 1990 ( No. 87 CIV. 7199 (BDP)(NRB) )


Merchant v. Levy
519 U.S. 1108
Supreme Court of the United States , February 18, 1997 ( No. 96-703 )


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Related Searches Parties
Band Member(s) ( Plaintiff )
Big Seven Music ( Defendant )
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) ( Defendant )
Estate of Artist(s) ( Defendant )
Goldner, George ( Defendant )
Levy, Morris ( Defendant )
Lymon, Frankie (and the Teenagers) ( Other )
Roulette Records ( Defendant )

Legal Issues
Copyrights / Infringement / Reproduction & Distribution/Dissemination
Copyrights / Ownership / Declaratory Judgment
Copyrights / Ownership / Joint Authorship, Works-for-Hire & Derivative Creations
General / Affirmative Defenses / Statutes of Limitation
General / Equitable Defenses / Laches
Torts / Economic Torts / Fraud, Misrepresentation & Inducement
Trademarks & Unfair Competition / Federal (Lanham Act) / Unfair Competition, False Advertising & Related Torts
Trademarks & Unfair Competition / State Statute/Common Law / Unfair Competition, False Advertising & Related Torts

Courts
Second Circuit (highest court)
S.D. New York


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