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1. Sammy Davis, Jr.'s Legacy
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Estate of Artist(s)
Financial Institution(s)
Spouse of Artist(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Financial Professional(s)
Other Davis, Sammy (Jr.)
Short Description Sammy Davis, Jr., was undoubtedly one of the most iconic musical stars of the twentieth century, and his death left behind piles of money, royalties, and assorted enforceable rights for his family. After his death, Sammy's wife, Altovise, formed a corporation with Defendants, including a financial institution and its named owner, to handle the royalty income, publicity rights, etc., for the deceased star. In forming their corporation, the parties agreed that Altovise would transfer her interests to the new corporation, but that after five years she would be given the assets back in return for a payment of $1. After the time limit was reached and she tendered the required payment, Defendants refused to remit the properties and interests to Plaintiffs, which include Altovise's estate and assorted corporate and financial entities. Defendants argued that Plaintiffs could not enforce the terms of the agreements because Altovise had previously materially breached the contract by withholding royalties. The court denied Plaintiffs' motion to strike statements made by various Defendants, which were relevant to Defendants' equitable defenses. However, on Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction preventing Defendants from continuing to exploit the contested assets while withholding payment to Plaintiffs, the court found that Defendants were indeed spending money belonging to the corporation, not paying Plaintiffs their 1/3 interest in the corporation's profits, and publicly declaring that Defendants owned all the corporation's assets. Defendants were enjoined from spending any more money or writing checks to anyone other than the court, from holding themselves out as owners of the assets, from selling or transferring shares in the company to anyone other than Plaintiff (or anyone at all). - LSW


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2. Travelocity Theme Copies Another
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Advertising Producer(s)
Defendants Brock, Jeffrey
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Defendant, Jeffrey Brock, composed music for Travelocity, but his composition infringed another copyrighted song, and Plaintiffs had to defend themselves in that suit. After an arbitration award in favor of Plaintiffs, Defendant incorporated and sought to deny personal jurisdiction on account of his company's actions not being equivalent to his own. The court found the corporation to be an "alter ego," and thus the court held there was personal jurisdiction. - LSW


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3. "Whoomp, Where Is It?"
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Bell, Al
Defendants Record Label(s)
Other Duice
Tag Team
Short Description Defendant purchased rights to sound recordings of Duice's "Dazzey Duks" and Tag Team's "Whoomp There It Is" from Plaintiffs during bankruptcy proceeding in the Eastern District of Texas, but, Plaintiffs assert, did not purchase rights to underlying musical compositions, and thus would owe appropriate mechanical royalties for using the songs. These royalties go to songwriters and publishers, while album royalties go to whoever owns the sound recordings (in this case, Defendant). Defendants sought to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Motions to dismiss denied, but venue transfer granted. - LSW


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4. Jonnie Taylor Concert Film Causes Lawsuit
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2002
Plaintiffs Malaco Records
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Other Taylor, Johnnie
Short Description Plaintiff is the exclusive licensee of Johnnie Taylor's recordings, including any videos made, and Defendant is an outside film company that allegedly contracted with Taylor to film his performances, but the parties themselves never reached an agreement regarding the film. Defendant, without Plaintiff's permission, marketed and distributed the film, "Johnnie Taylor Live at the Longhorn Ballroom," and Plaintiff sued. The court found blatant copyright infringement and irreparable harm, and thus granted Plaintiff's request for an injunction. - LSW


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5. LeAnn Rimes Wants Out of Contract
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2001
Plaintiffs Rimes, LeAnn
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Curb Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description In an hilarious opinion entirely composed of rhymes matching lyrics to some of LeAnn Rimes' hit songs, with footnotes expanding the necessary facts, the court upheld a forum selection clause contained in a recording agreement she'd signed as a minor, requiring her to bring suit in Tennessee, subject to Tennessee's laws. When Rimes sought to disaffirm the contract under general rules that minors may disaffirm contracts upon reaching the age of majority, Defendant Curb Records argued she could not do so, as she had previously, through he guardian ad litem, removed her minority status for the purpose of signing the agreement. The court found no reason to invalidate the forum selection clause, and since a previous court had declared her minority status removed regarding the contract, the contract as a whole could not be summarily disaffirmed upon reaching the age of majority. If Rimes wants to contest the contract or anything in it, she must, according to the forum slection clause, do so in Tennessee. - LSW


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6. Henley the Man vs. Henley the Shirt
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 1999
Plaintiffs Henley, Don
Defendants Dillards Department Stores
Other Eagles
Short Description Don Henley, lead singer for the Eagles and successful pop singer in his own right, just happens to share his last name with a style of shirt, the henley. Dillard's department stores appears to be the only ones who noticed it, and cleverly released a shirt called the Don Henley, implying the name of the shirt was the "Don" and the style was a henley. The advertisements played on the association, but featured another person, which they claimed was named "Don" and who "loves his henley." When Henley sued for a plethora of different causes (just look at the legal issues associated with this entry), the court spent a great deal discussing his publicity claim, which is also described in terms of the right to privacy (though technically they're different actions, publicity technically being a property right). The court held that, even though the person in the ad was not Don Henley, and thus they did not trade commercially on his physical "likeness," the obvious association with Don Henley satisfied his claim for violation of his right of publicity, and the court granted summary judgment for Henley. - LSW


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7. Freddie King's Widow: "Infringement!"
Highest Court Fifth Circuit
Year Ended 1999
Plaintiffs Family of Artist(s)
Defendants Record Label(s)
Other King, Freddie
Short Description The daughter and widow of musicians Freddie King sued Defendant for infringing copyrights to King's compositions and other causes arising from Defendant's sale of King music for profit without permission. Plaintiffs were unsuccessful in their copyright claims, in that they offered no evidence of copying (although it seems apparent from the facts), but the Court of Appeal found merit in the misappropriation and breach of contract claims, reversing the District Court's decision as to the former and affirming the award of damages for the latter. - LSW


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8. Lynyrd Skynyrd Fan Legally Must Get a Life
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 1999
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Lynyrd Skynyrd
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description After a drug-related relationship between Lynyrd Skynyrd and a "high-profile fan" soured during a concert in Jackson Hole Wyoming in the summer of 1997, the fan sued for breach of contract, claiming the band never delivered on their promise to give him four tickets to a concert in Dallas, per a settlement agreement. The court granted Defendants' motion of summary judgment, holding that the fan's breach of contract claim was legally insufficient since he requested the tickets only two days before the Dallas concert. - SKR


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9. ZZ Top Copy Old Blues Band?
Highest Court Fifth Circuit
Year Ended 1995
Plaintiffs Nightcaps
Defendants ZZ Top
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description ZZ Top were sued by a 1950s and 60s band, The Nightcaps, for plagiarizing a song "Thunderbird". ZZ Top admitted that their version of the song, released in 1975, was sonically identical to the late, unlamented Nightcaps' version. ZZ Top was granted summary judgment due to preemption of all claims by federal statutes and the running of the statute of limitations. In an opinion full of musical puns, the appellate court affirmed the summary judgment finding that The Nightcaps knew in 1981 of ZZ Top's version. - JMC


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