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1. Who Gets Roger Miller's Rights?
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Family of Artist(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Defendants Sony/ATV Music
Other Miller, Roger
Short Description The wife of deceased Roger Miller sued his music publisher for royalties and was granted renewal copyright interest notwithstanding agreements between the parties. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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2. Oh, Poor Vinnie Vincent
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Vincent, Vinnie
Defendants Band Member(s)
Business Entity of Artist(s)
KISS
Polygram Records
Simmons, Gene
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Vinnie Vincent (nee Cusano) was KISS's lead guitarist from 1982-84, at which time he co-wrote numerous songs that appeared on albums. Though he's not too well known by the population at-large, he's well known in courts of law. Vincent sued the band and its members numerous times during the 1990s and 2000s (see, e.g., "Vinnie Vincent Wants In" (I) and (II), and "Vinnie Vincent vs. Metal Edge"). In the late 1990s, he sued his former band-mates for numerous causes of action, including violation of publicity, defamation, and nonpayment of royalties. He lost the case, and KISS were awarded $80,000 in fees and costs, for which the band members secured a judgment lien on Vincent's copyrights. Vincent filed this Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, as wells as numerous adversary proceedings against various parties, including one against BMI for which he was awarded $2,000 of the $20,000 he requested. After third parties motioned to convert his bankruptcy into Chapter 7, Vincent moved to voluntarily withdraw his petition. The court, noting that Vincent had filed in bad faith, barred him from filing for two years and held that no subsequent filing could impact matters relating to the prior litigation between Vincent and KISS. The appellate court, after addressing preliminary issues, upheld the lower court's finding as to "bad faith." Vincent had filed three times in three years and had withheld financial information from courts adjudicating his proceedings. (Ancillary issues were also discussed, but the "bad faith" issue was, according to the court, the most important.) - LSW


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3. DJ Says: "DMX & Fitty Copied Me!"
Highest Court E.D. Michigan
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Fharmacy Records
Music Producer(s)
Defendants 50 Cent
Def Jam Records
Music Publisher(s)
Ruff Ryders
Universal Music Group
Other DMX
Short Description DMX and songwriters sued for copyright infringement of Plaintiff's composition. Judgment for Defendants. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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4. George Clinton's Publisher's War (VII)
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Bridgeport Music
Music Publisher(s)
Westbound Records
Defendants Record Label(s)
Universal-RCA Music
Warner Bros. Music
Other Clinton, George
Hutton, L.T.
P-Funk Allstars
Snoop Dogg
Soopafly
Short Description George Clinton and P-Funk Allstars' publisher sued Snoop's publisher for copyright infringement by utilizing the latter's lyrics. Judgment for Snoop. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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5. Lonely Boys, Too Many Managers
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Music Manager(s)
Other Los Lonely Boys
Short Description Self-proclaimed "Texican" artists, Los Lonely Boys, employed Plaintiff as their band's manager in Nashville in 1996. After the Boys met music producers who criticized Plaintiff's management, they demanded an accounting, which Plaintiff failed to provide, prompting them to repudiate the contract and employ their father as new management back in Texas, with Defendant as their booking agent. Plaintiff thought third parties were responsible, but failed to bring suit within the applicable statute of limitations period after learning of their breach. For this reason, the trial court dismissed his complaint. The appellate court disagreed, saying Plaintiff may have known of the interference but did not know the identity of the parties that induced the Boys breach. His action, said the court, only accrued upon learning who had done so, which occurred in 2003, after reading an article about the band, within the statute of limitations period. It is possible he should have known earlier (particularly after deposing the Boys' father in 2002), but this discussion is reserved for the trier of fact below. - LSW


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6. Loretta Lynn vs. Music Publisher
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Lynn, Loretta
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Loretta Lynn is a longstanding country superstar whose career dates back to the 1960s and continues until today. This lawsuit arose from a music publishing contract she signed in 1961, at the beginning of her career, with Defendant Sure-Fire Music. According to the agreement, the relationship would cease if Defendant's ownership changed hands, as Lynn wished to retain assocation with specific management. By 2003, only two of the original owners still controlled the company, and Lynn believed this meant their agreement was at an end. She sued in state court alleging various causes of action, principally a declaratory judgment that her copyrights were no longer owned by Defendants, but also alleging breach of contract and good faith/fair dealing and conversion. In state court, Defendants successfully argued the action was federal in nature and thus completely preempted by the Copyright Act. Lynn filed the same suit in federal court, who decided the action was state-based after all, and dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Seeking to avoid re-litigation, Defendants appealed, arguing federal jurisdiction existed. The Circuit Court disagreed and affirmed the dismissal. Under the "equivalency" test for federal preemption, the court found Lynn's actions were not merely rephrasing copyright theories, but were based on contract interpretation, contract breach, and property ownership. Dismissal affirmed. - LSW


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7. Labels Don't Want to Split Meatloaf
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Cleveland International Records
Popovich, Steve
Defendants Sony Music
Other Meat Loaf
Short Description Plaintiff is the founder of Cleveland International Records, who signed Meat Loaf and subsequently entered into a settlement with Epic in 1977. Plaintiff sued for unpaid royalties from the agreement. Judgment for Plaintiff. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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8. Biggie Sampled Ohio Players
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Bridgeport Music
Westbound Records
Defendants Bad Boy Records
Music Publisher(s)
UMG Records
Universal Records
Other Notorious B.I.G.
Ohio Players
Short Description Westbound Records and Bridgeport Music are more commonly associated with copyright infringement lawsuits involving George Clinton's musical output, but it appears they owned some Ohio Players songs as well. Ohio Players are, of course, a 1970s funk band known for tight instrumentation and top-notch vocals. The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls) used an unlicensed sample of Ohio Players' "Singing in the Morning" in his song "Ready to Die," after being denied clearance for a Jimi Hendrix sample. Plaintiffs sued Biggie's publisher and record label, who admittedly cleared the use of the unlicensed samples, and Plaintiffs elected to receive statutory and punitive damages on the copyright claims (they also brought various unfair competition-related actions). The federal jury found in their favor, granting over $4 million, all but $500,000 of which was punitive. On appeal, Defendants argued the high punitive damages were the result of jury prejudice and improper exclusion of Defendants' offer to settle amicably, which they argued vitiated against willfulness, and claimed the trial court's bifurcation of damages and liability was reversible error. The Court of Appeals disagreed as to Defendants' reasoning, but reduced damages nonetheless for two reasons: 1) compensatory damages impermissibly included compound and prejudgment interest, and 2) the punitive damages were unconstitutionally excessive, because Defendants' conduct was not reprehensible and the disparity between compensatory and punitive damages was almost 10-to-1 (said the court, 2-to-1 would be more appropriate). An injunction was upheld. On remand, the District Court applied the Circuit's ruling above. - LSW


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9. Troutman Bros. Grand Finale (I)
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Bankruptcy Trustee(s)
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Other Troutman, Larry
Troutman, Roger
Zapp
Short Description These documents contain confusing and incredibly drawn-out bankruptcy litigation involving the life insurance of Roger and Larry Troutman. Roger was the former lead singer and guitarist for Zapp (he had a solo career too), and Larry was his brother, also in the band, who murdered Roger, also his business partner, in a purportedly unexplained murder-suicide. Their company had taken out life insurance policies for the brothers not too long before they died, but during bankruptcy proceedings the company failed to disclose this information. After the re-organized business claimed the policy distributions, creditors of the original entity sued for the post-reorganization distributions. After many opinions, back and forth, the court held the insurance policy belonged to the pre-bankruptcy company, and thus its creditors, and the bankruptcy trustee then brought suit against the reorganized entity to return the money paid. The court allowed some of the claims to proceed. Sheesh. - LSW


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10. No Name vs. Dre & Blige
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Artist(s)
Defendants Blige, Mary J.
Dr. Dre
Kambon, Camara
Music Producer(s)
Publisher(s)
Songwriter(s)
Universal Music
Universal-MCA Music
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiffs authored a musical composition called "Party Ain't Crunk." They alleged that Mary J. Blige and her many, many collaborators (including Dr. Dre and other producers, songwriters, labels, and publishers) infringed their song in Blige's song "Family Affair." After the court dismissed the complaint as to Dr. Dre, whose contacts with Michigan were insufficient to warrant personal jurisdiction, the court held for Defendants. Not only were the songs not "substantially similar," as is required by the Copyright Act (some people surveyed found the songs "moderately similar"), but there is no evidence Defendants had access. As is common, Plaintiffs' sole allegation of access related to an unsolicited demo tape they'd dropped off at Universal's offices, which was returned to them (though it had been opened). Plaintiffs had previous access with one member of Universal's staff, but no one in any department related to new talent. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's summary judgment for Defendants, agreeing with the reasoning and adding that "bare corporate receipt" of the demo tape was insufficient evidence of access. - LSW


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11. Fugee's Sampling Challenged
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Copyright Licensor(s)
Cymande
Music Publisher(s)
Defendants Fugees
Music Publisher(s)
Sony Music
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Members of an obscure 1970s British funk group, Cymande, discovered they'd been sampled by The Fugees on their album, The Score, which was released in 1996 and was immensely popular, selling over 6,000,000 copies in the U.S. and many more worldwide. After a proposed settlement agreement in 1998 was never completed, Defendants nevertheless continued to follow its terms, depositing 75% of all royalties earned in an escrow account for Plaintiffs. Litigation continued and court-supervised mediation dragged on as well, but after discovering that Plaintiffs had removed funds from the account, Defendants argued Plaintiffs' actions constituted ratification/accord and satisfaction regarding the agreement, and moved for summary judgment. The District Court found for the Fugees and their record label and publisher, saying Plaintiffs' failure to respond to certain discovery requests constituted admission of the facts contained therein. The Court of Appeals disagreed; Defendants cannot argue Plaintiffs' conduct constituted acceptance of the settlement, since they'd argued that Plaintiffs' previously ratified the agreement (there can be no meeting of the minds regarding a contract if one party believes there already is one). Furthermore, promissory and equitable estoppel cannot form bases for Defendants' argument, since, if Plaintiff was unjustly enriched without accepting the contract, Defendant should amend their answer to include unjust enrichment. Defendants' motion for summary judgment denied. - LSW


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12. Songwriter's Ex Wants Money
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Spouse of Artist(s)
Defendants Davis, Stephen Allen
Other Rich, Charlie
Sledge, Percy
Short Description Steven Allen Davis was a successful songwriter, among his best-known compositions are Charlie Rich's smash hit "The Most Beautiful Girl" and Percy Sledge's "Take Time to Know Her." In the 1970s, Davis co-wrote, along with his then (now ex-) wife, who is the Plaintiff in this suit, a song called "Mama McCluskie." This song was later adjusted by Davis and others and released as Rich's song "The Most Beautiful Girl." Plaintiff heard the song and thought it had been copied from their co-written composition. Davis's publisher, Al Gallico, however, acted in a very shady manner, telling Davis's ex-wife that Davis had not written the song, while at the same time telling Davis that he'd be "taken care of" by his publisher if she sued. In their divorce decree, Plaintiff was not awarded any share of Davis's songwriting royalties. Years later, Al Gallico publicly stated in an interview that "Beautiful Girl" was a copy of "McCluskie," and Davis sued, alleging fraud. Davis's ex-wife was alerted of the lawsuit by her lawyers, at which time Davis allegedly admitted to Plaintiff, in a "confessional" phone call, that he'd defrauded Plaintiff to prevent her from getting anything from their divorce. While Davis's actions against Gallico were time-barred, Plaintiffs actions against both Davis and Gallico were not so easily dismissed. The court held that the "discovery" rule regarding accruals of causes of action could lead to the conclusion that her action did not accrue until the "confessional" call from Davis, and not her earlier inquiry in the 1970s. Since issues of fact regarding when her action accrued still existed, the action could not be dismissed summarily. - LSW


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13. Warren G's Rap Defames?
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Boladian, Armen
Nine Records
Westbound Records
Defendants Clinton, George
Music Publisher(s)
Retail Chain(s)
Universal Music
Universal Records
Warren G
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Armen Boladian is the owner of Bridgeport Music publishing, Nine Records and Westbound Records, and is perhaps best known to most (and particularly to readers of the Discography) for the hundreds of suits he filed against rap artists who'd allegedly sampled George Clinton's music. Boladian's companies control the copyrights to numerous Clinton songs. The relationship between Armen and George broke down over the years (see e.g. "Clinton Squatting on Exec's Land?," in this database), and this lawsuit is but one of the resulting proceedings. Here, Armen sued Clinton alleging he'd been defamed in the latter's song, which referred to Armen as a "disgrace to the species," among other insulting names. Boladian sued for defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, bringing charges against not just Clinton and his current music business associates, but against retail chain Meijer as well. The court first found no causes of action were properly stated against Meijer, which had no reason to know of the allegedly libelous content contained in one among the hundreds of thousands of CDs they distributed. Furthermore, Boladian failed to state any valid claims in the first place; Clinton's taunts are typical in rap music, and are not susceptible to any sort of "objective" accusation. Boladian's companies' complaints, based in the same set of facts, were dismissed too. - LSW


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14. George Clinton's Publisher's War (II)
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Bridgeport Music
Westbound Records
Defendants Universal-Polygram Music
Warner Bros. Music
Warner-Chappell Music
Other Clinton, George
Ice T
Parliament-Funkadelic
Short Description George Clinton's publisher sued Ice-T's publisher for using samples from "Get Off Your Ass and Jam" in the latter's "99 Problems." Even though 3-year statute of limitations barred Plaintiff's action, they tried to pursue an action on the theory that receipt of royalties alone constituted infringement, which has been followed by some other courts. The District Court found for Defendants, and granted attorney fees for the Defendant, which the Court of Appeals affirmed. - LSW


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15. George Clinton's Publisher's War (III)
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Bridgeport Music
Nine Records
Southfield Music
Westbound Records
Defendants Dimension Films
Miramax Films
No Limit Films
Other Clinton, George
N.W.A.
Parliament-Funkadelic
Short Description Bridgeport Music (publisher for Funkadelic), Westbound Music (the record label), and other related music companies, sued various media companies responsible for distributing NW.A.'s song "100 Miles and Running," which sampled Clinton's "Get Off Your Ass and Jam." Over numerous rehearings, the Sixth Circuit eventually found for Plaintiffs regarding the sampling claims. Defendants had received an oral license, followed by a retroactive written license, from co-owners of the musical composition, which the District Court held validated Defendants' use of Clinton's melodies. But that did not cover the sound recording itself, which is a separate copyright. The Distrct Court found the use to be "de minimis," even though blatant sampling had indeed occurred, saying it must strike a balance between property and creativity. On appeal, Westbound challenged the latter holding, arguing that no "de minimis" inquiry should be allowed, since copying had been admitted by Defendants. The Court of Appeal agreed, and in several controversial decisions held that, where copying is proved (or admitted), no such inquiry should be had, as the rule is simple: "Get a license or do not sample." Defendants could have re-recorded the clips without a license for Westbound's copyrights, as they had a license for the underlying musical notes. As the court stated, the sampling in question "is a physical taking rather than an intellectual one." Though the use was arguably "de minimis" (it may not have been, since the clip was 7 seconds long and appeared numerous times), the physical use of another's work product was copyright infringement by definition. The appellate court did allow the District Court to examine the issue of "fair use," though no holding was rendered on that point. Ancillary issues were also decided regarding complaint amendment and attorneys' fees, but the sampling issue is of primary concern, and the court's holding has been commonly cited by copyright commentators. - LSW


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16. Kid Rock's 1st Producer: "Breach!" (I)
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Music Producer(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Defendants Kid Rock
Top Dog Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This lawsuit was filed by Kid Rock's original manager in 1999, ten years after the two parties entered management, publishing, and various other contracts during the much-less-successful early years of Rock's career. Rock openly rejected the contracts the same year, asserting that Rock, not Plaintiff, owned the Top Dog record label and Rock's copyrights. Here, Plaintiff brought various tort, contract, and fiduciary duty claims, alleging Rock's subsequent transfer of the same compositions to Zomba violated Plaintiff's rights. Regarding these claims, the court held them preempted by the Copyright Act; the issue was really whether Rock infringed Plaintiff's copyrights, and no meaningful "extra element" existed outside basic infringement. As such, the claims were barred by copyright's three year statute of limitations. State claims were barred by their six-year limitations, and Plaintiff's trademark claims regarding the "Top Dog" mark, whether federal or state, were defeated by Plaintiff's utter abandonment following Rock's repudiation, having made no effort to enforce Plaintiff's alleged ownership over the past 10 years. See also "Kid Rock's 1st Producer: 'Breach!' (II)," for the follow-up suit to this entry. - LSW


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17. Vandellas Want Royalties
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Martha and the Vandellas
Defendants Royalty Collector(s)
Universal Music Group
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The Vandellas (as in Martha and the Vandellas) sued Artists Recording Enforcement Corp., the company that helped them win their royalties from Motown, for withholding royalties from the group after success at trial. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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18. Record Labels Sue Oldies Label
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs GML Records
King Records
Defendants Collectibles Records
Other Pitney, Gene
Shirelles
Thomas, B.J.
Short Description This is a case between two record labels (related to both "Giving the Oldies Their Goodies (I)" and "Giving the Oldies Their Goodies (II)") arising from Plaintiff's ownership of master recordings by Gene Pitney, the Shirelles, and B.J. Thomas, whose suits against Plaintiff ended in the artists' favor. Collectibles Records received a license to the recordings through a chain of assignment that pre-dated plaintiff's acquisition of the recordings. Plaintiff alleged Collectibles exceeded the scope of its license and alternatively that the license expired, and thus Plaintiff is owed money, despite never having directly licensed Defendant itself. Because no contract between the parties existed, Plaintiff sued for unjust enrichment, but the court failed to find it would be "inequitable" not to compensate Plaintiff. - LSW


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19. Songwriter Sues Brandy & Friends
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Atlantic Records
Brandy
Daniels, LaShawn
Jerkins, Fred, III
Jerkins, Rodney "Darkchild"
Tajeda, Japhe
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Oh, how annoying demo tape submissions must be for record labels. Not only is the music probably almost always horrible, but in case any of the label's artists ever releases a song even slightly similar to anything contained on one of the demo tapes (by shear chance, as is usually the case), the demo-submitter may try to sue for copyright infringement. Even if dismissed, the case is still annoying. That is exactly what happened here. Plaintiffs sent an unsolicited demo of their song "Get Naked (Remix)" to Lava Records, one of only dozen or so copies produced, and later alleged Brandy's song "Tomorrow" was copied from their composition. The lower court found that the songs might indeed be substantially similar, but there were no real allegations Defendants had access, other than appeals to mere possibilities. Plaintiffs couldn't even verify the demo they sent to Lava contained the song they claimed had been copied. Despite Plaintiffs' attempt to introduce new evidence and appeal, the appellate court affirmed the lower court's ruling for Defendants. - LSW


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20. George Clinton's Publisher's War (I)
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Bridgeport Music
Southfield Music
Defendants Individual(s)
Music Publisher(s)
No Limit Records
Record Label(s)
Other Clinton, George
Master P
P-Funk Allstars
Tru
Short Description Bridgeport Music, Inc. (not to be confused with BROADCAST Music, Inc.), the publishing company owning George Clinton's extensive catalog, which has been sampled numerous times, sued No Limit and various publishers, producers, and record labels for the their involvement in a Master P/Tru song, called "3 Strikes," which incorporated Clinton's "Atomic Dog." Parties had reached a prior agreement allowing Defendants to use the sample, but sued when royalty payments were less than anticipated. Some defendants were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, and remaining Defendants argued that Plaintiff's actions were time-barred by the statute of limitations, which the court initially found to be the case, at least regarding infringements prior to the most recent three-year period. This holding was affirmed on appeal. Furthermore, Defendants were allowed to contest the validity of Plaintiff's copyright ownership, which they achieved by chain of transfer from Clinton and his original publishers, and the court held that prior Florida and New York decisions upholding the transfers did not collaterally estop Defendants from challenging their validity. - LSW


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