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1. Phil Spector's Murder Conviction
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs State Prosecutor(s)
Defendants Spector, Phil
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Phil Spector was once one of the most successful producers in the music business. After his high-points in the 1960s, he became an infamous Hollywood recluse, living alone in an immense mansion. He has long been known to be eccentric, to put it lightly. This case followed the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, for which Spector was convicted. These opinions deal largely with evidentiary and procedural issues, including the admissibility of Spector's earlier statement that "all women deserve a bullet in their head." Yikes. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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2. Songwriter's Royalties in a Bind
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Financial Institution(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Pullman, David
Other Page, Gene
Short Description This lawsuit is one of several over the last few years involving the financial transaction of David Pullman, a somewhat well-known figure in the music industry for his role in creating so-called "Bowie Bonds," named after David Bowie, the artist who first used them. Bowie Bonds are investment vehicles wherein purchasers buy debt from recording artists, to be repaid, with interest, through royalty payments owed to the artist. This lawsuit appears to involve this same sort of transaction regarding the royalty interests of songwriter Gene Page. Page's family took loans from Plaintiff, a financial company that loans money to artists to be repaid from royalties, but was also involved, to some extent, with Pullman and his entities. Pullman's parties offered to investigate some suspect financial transactions between Plaintiff and Page's family, including a loan to a family member of Plaintiff's owners, and Plaintiff assigned to Pullman the rights to do so. After Pullman brought suit against Plaintiffs for numerous causes of action, including conversion, fraud, interference, civil conspiracy, and numerous equitable actions not specifically listed in this entry, Plaintiff sought to enforce an arbitration agreement contained in one, and only one, of the many loan agreements between Plaintiff and the Pages. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) found the arbitration agreement enforceable, and the parties submitted to arbitration, which ended in Pullman/Page's favor for over $1/2 million. This lawsuit was brought by Plaintiff to vacate the arbitration award, alleging no court of law ever found the agreement binding. Though the AAA had upheld the provision, the court agreed and concluded that no court of law had upheld it, and thus the arbitration was not binding. If a party objects to arbitration, the resulting award cannot be binding absent a judicial determination. The award was vacated, and a court must now determine whether arbitration is mandatory. - LSW


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3. Plaintiff: "Too $hort Owes Me!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants County Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Too Short [$hort]
Short Description This is a lawsuit resulting from Too $hort's bankruptcy proceedings, in which Plaintiff, a previously victorious Plaintiff in a suit against $hort, sued the County of Los Angeles, alleging negligence in their failure to secure a $50,000+ judgment he was awarded in his first suit. Since Too $hort's money is in too short supply, Plaintiff sought to attach wages earned from MTV, but the Sheriff failed to do so. The court here alleges Plaintiff has no cause against the county fpr failure to attach $hort's earnings; a finding of negligence by Country officials requires officials breaching statutory duties, which did not occur here. - LSW


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4. Contract with Chipmunks Breached
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Capitol Records
Other Bogdasarian, Ross
Chipmunks
Short Description Alvin and the Chipmunks first came to prominence during the 1960s, but long after their creator died, his son revived the business in the 1980s, which turned out to be immensely popular among kids of the day and ever since. This lawsuit arose from a contract signed in 1968 between Ross Bagdasarian, the Chipmunk's creator, and Capitol Records, the successor-in-interest to Liberty Records, with whom Bagdasarian agreed the Chipmunk's albums would be made. However, over the years since, Capitol has licensed the sound recordings for many other purposes, such as background music in television and movies. This lawsuit alleged that such licensing overstepped the terms of the contract, which only provided Capitol the rights to make phonograph reproductions. Despite the 40 years that had passed since the contracts were signed, the court held that Plaintiff's actions were not barred by statutes of limitation or the doctrine of laches. Furthermore, the court interpreted the contract according to Plaintiff's reading; the agreement only gave Defendant permission to make records, but not to license the songs. Defendants' extrinsic evidence only reinforced this interpretation. Though copyrights do not apply to pre-1972 sound recordings, such as those subject to the 1968 contract, Plaintiff's intangible property right in the recordings were based in a California statute preventing "plagiarism" under an unfair competition rubric. The appellate court reversed the trial court's finding for Defendant as a matter of law. - LSW


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5. More Money for Crickets & Hollies?
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs MCA Records
Defendants Family of Artist(s)
Former Band Member(s)
Spouse of Artist(s)
Other Holly, Buddy (and the Crickets)
Petty, Norman
Short Description Buddy Holly was one of the most promising of the early rock n' roll stars, writing and producing his own music, but his life was cut short by the infamously tragic plane crash in 1959 that also killed Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. In this case, brought in 1999, Holly's widow, heirs, and former members of the Crickets sued MCA Records for unpaid royalties due on contracts signed in the 1950s but amended numerous times thereafter, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty, as well as fraud, conversion, and more. On motions for summary judgment, the court held the contract actions not barred by the statute of limitations regarding the previous four years, but found the fraud and duty claims not actionable. The court found MCA liable for over $500,000 in unpaid royalties owed on sales since 1995. Because each royalty underpayment was an individual wrong, the court allowed Plaintiffs recovery on those within the statutory period, but did not agree with Plaintiff's "delayed discovery" argument regarding earlier underpayment. On appeal, the California court of appeals affirmed, finding all but the contract awards properly disposed. Plaintiffs' award was increased, however, since the lower court had inappropriately allowed MCA to deduct "packaging costs" according to practices enshrined in Holly's contracts, but which were long-outdated by the time the contracts were signed. MCA needed to present evidence of actual packaging costs, not industry customs with no real bearing on reality. Since MCA presented no such evidence, no packaging costs were deducted, and the award was increased by $75,000. - LSW


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6. TV Producer vs. KISS Documentary
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Television Producer(s)
Defendants Television Network(s)
Television Producer(s)
Other KISS
Short Description Plaintiff, a segment producer from Gene Simmon's TV show, "Family Jewels," sued for misappropriation of identity and claimed his brief appearance as himself on the show "lacked consent." The court found for Defendant, Plaintiff consented. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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7. Randy Jackson Faces the Judges
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Green Trio Music
Defendants Carey, Mariah
Cole, Lionel
Individual(s)
Jackson, Randy
Music Publisher(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Randy Jackson was a partner in a publishing firm that sued Jackson for breach of fiduciary duty through dealings with third party. The suit was barred by statute of limitations. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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8. Family of Jazz Singer Says: "Settle!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Blix Street Records
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Individual(s)
Other Cassidy, Eva
Short Description The family of deceased jazz vocalist, Eva Cassidy, successfully reached a settlement agreement with Plaintiff, a record label with which they'd contracted to release Eva's recordings, and tried to enforce the agreement in court. While the lower court upheld the agreement, the appellate court found it lacked some necessary signatures and could not be enforced. - LSW


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9. Battle Over Doors' Name
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Densmore, John
Estate of Artist(s)
Defendants Astbury, Ian
Doors of the 21st Century
Kreiger, Robby
Manzarek, Ray
Music Promoter(s)
Other Cult
Doors
Morrison, Jim
Short Description John Densmore and other assorted Doors-related parties sued Ray Manzarek, Robby Kreiger, Ian Astbury (of The Cult!), and other associated entities for touring under the name "The Doors of the 21st Century," alleging numerous causes of action arising from the band's moniker's intentional similarity to the original Doors' name. The holding in Plaintiffs' favor led to Manzarek's subsequent insurance suit in "Who Insures Doors' Litigation?" - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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10. Daz Sues for Malpractice
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Daz Dillinger
Defendants Lawyer(s)
Other Death Row Records
Knight, Suge
Shakur, Tupac
Tha Dogg Pound
Short Description DelMar Arnaud, who went by the names Daz Dillinger and Dat Nigga Daz, sued his attorney for malpractice, fraud, conversion, and breach of fiduciary duty. In 2001, Arnaud, a former member of Suge Knight's recording empire, won a default judgment in California for about $25 million against Knight and others. The defendant supposedly hired counsel in New York to collect the judgment. That New York counsel did not actually represent Arnaud's interests, and Arnaud wound up signing a release of the default judgment. The defendant went broke and when Daz sued defendant tried to arbitrate the dispute. The court refused and also found that Defendant's recent bankruptcy did not discharge Arnaud's claims. - JMC (ed. LSW)


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11. Jimi Memorabilia a Fraud?
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Memorabilia Dealer(s)
Defendants Experience Hendrix
Other Hendrix, Jimi
Short Description The owner of a purportedly ex-Hendrix guitar put the instrument on eBay for sale. Hendrix's estate contacted eBay and asked for it to be removed, alleging it was either stolen or fake, which would be a violation of publicity and Lanham violation. After a minimum price of $200,000 was not reached, the auction was retracted, but Plaintiff sued Hendrix's estate for defamation and interference with contract. The trial court found for Plaintiff, but then granted a new trial due to insufficient evidence, and the court of appeals agreed. Here the appellate court denied Defendants' motions to exclude evidence, etc. - LSW


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12. Rod Stewart Cancels Another Gig
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Lawyer(s)
Music Manager(s)
Stewart, Rod
Talent Agent(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description A concert promoter and several sub-promoters sued the raspily crooning Brit, sex symbol Rod Stewart, alleging he'd breached their contracts for an upcoming tour, demanding return of the $780,000 advance they gave him. In response, Stewart sued for for $2.1 million, which he would have received if the tour went along as planned. At trial, the jury found for Plaintiffs under negligent misprepresentation theories, but--in a conflicted opinion-- also held both 1) the parties never entered binding contracts for the tours, and 2) some Defendants interfered with Plaintiff's contracts with Stewart for the tours and owed $1.6 million. On review, the appellate court held that negotiations broke down before any formal contracts had been formed, and thus the interference claims must be reversed, but that Plaintiffs' successful verdicts for unjust enrichment and negligent misprepresentation were correct, and, further, Plaintiffs were owed around $500,000 in attorneys fees for litigating Stewart's pointless counterclaims. While no contracts were formed, Stewart's camp had made false representations and refused to return the deposit given according to those representations. - LSW


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13. Game Character Based on Singer?
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Lady Miss Kier
Defendants Sega
Video Game Designer(s)
Video Game Distributor(s)
Video Game Manufacturer(s)
Other Deee-Lite
Short Description The lead singer for the band Deee-Lite, known as Lady Miss Lier, sued Sega, the manufacturer of a video game, for appropriating her likeness for a character in the game named Ulala. The District and Circuit Courts granted summary judgment to Sega for First Amendment purposes. But many, many other cases followed. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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14. Composer's Property Troubles
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Financial Institution(s)
Defendants Wolf, Peter
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Defendant is Peter Wolf, an Austrian composer/producer (not the lead singer for the J. Geils Band), who, despite being rather unknown in the United States, received upwards of $250,000 annually in royalties from European sales. After Wolf received loans from Plaintiff bank for construction of an Austrian home and recording studio, he relocated to Los Angeles, CA, and ceased paying his dues abroad. Plaintff sued in California and Wolf tried to dismiss the case, citing the doctrine of "forum non conveniens" (i.e. the forum was inconvenient), saying that all witnesses were in Austria, documents were written in German, and Austrian law applied to the suit. Though the trial court agreed, the appellate court reversed, saying that, while the Austria was a proper forum, California was not so inconvenient as to warrant dismissal. All of Wolf's assets were in the state, Wolf lived there, and even if Plaintiff were to obtain an Austrian judgment, it would need to be enforced in California through a separate suit anyway. Dismissal reversed. - LSW


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15. Their Eyes Blind to Insurance Limits
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Third Eye Blind
Defendants Financial Professional(s)
Insurer(s)
Music Manager(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This case presents an interesting insurance issue, which is rare in the world of rock n' roll lawsuits. (Such suits are rarely interesting in the slightest.) Though this suit was between the pop rock band Third Eye Blind, on one side, and their business managers and insurers on the other, it stems from an internal band dispute. The band fired former lead guitarist, Kevin Cadogen, following disagreements over the future of the band's business ventures. When he sued, alleging the band's continued performance violated publicity and Lanham Act (trademark-related) rights, the band requested coverage from their insurer, but were denied. After litigating the suit themselves and settling with Cadogen, total costs reached around $3 million. The band then sued their insurer for denying coverage and also sued their business managers for failing to make the band aware of their insurance limitations. Though the insurer was found to have wrongly denied coverage, the band's negligence actions against their managers continued forward. The managers argued the action could not proceed, since the prior finding against the insurer definitively determined the managers hadn't acted negligently, and the trial court agreed. On appeal, the California intermediate court disagreed, saying the band's action against its managers was independent of their insurance coverage; they argued the managers failed to let the band know that "coverage for certain events might be excluded." Though the managers might be liable if the insurance indeed did not cover the dispute, they might be liable anyway, having failed to meet their duty to keep the band aware of their policy's limitations. The managers' arguments otherwise were insufficient. - LSW


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16. Kurupt's Ex-Managers Want Dough
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Music Producer(s)
Defendants Death Row Records
Dr. Dre
Knight, Suge
Kurupt the Kingpen
Music Manager(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Snoop Dogg
Other Daz Dillinger
Tha Dogg Pound
Short Description The former manager/producer for rap artist Kurupt the Kingpen sued the artist and his label after not receiving compensation for career support he'd provided. The jury returned an award for Plaintiff for over $14 million, but the court reduced it to $5 million, which the appellate court affirmed. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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17. Nelson Riddle's Estate Troubles
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Family of Artist(s)
Trust of Artist(s)
Defendants Estate of Artist(s)
Executor of Estate(s)
Other Riddle, Nelson
Short Description Nelson Riddle had been married twice, and thus his royalties from works during each marriage were community property between he and his spouses. His wife died and left all her shares to the University of Arizona Foundation to create a professorship in his name. When executor of will determined that much of the income from songs recording during Nelson's first marriage were on account of promotional activities during his second, Plaintiffs sued. Judgment for Plaintiffs, executor is bound by prior judgments and settlements. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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18. Rap Producer's Lawyer Wants Payment
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Lawyer(s)
Defendants Harper, "Big D"
Lawyer(s)
Other Shakur, Tupac
Short Description Former attorney for Darryl 'Big D' Harper, a producer on Tupac's "Makaveli" album and later Beyonce, sued Harper and his current lawyer for damages arising from past relations, in which Plaintiff had consulted with Defendant lawyer on Harper's career prior to Harper ditching Plaintiff for Defendant lawyer. Defendants, in addition to being jerks and physically threatening Plaintiff if she brought suit, refused to reply with discovery requests, etc. Plaintiff got $700,000. - LSW


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19. Slayer Blamed for Metalhead Murderer
Highest Court Superior Court of California
Year Ended 2001
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants American Records
Columbia House
Def Jam Music
Metal Blade Records
Music Publisher(s)
Rubin, Rick
Slayer
Sony Music
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The plaintiffs' daughter was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by three young males. The parents then brought suit against the killers and their families as well as the band Slayer. The parents argued the methodology of killing their daughter paralleled Slayer's lyrics. the court described Slayer's music as "atonal, dissonant music which does not vary from piece to piece and has few hints of melody." The lyrics glorified violence and societal disconnect. Apparently, the murderers thought that killing the girl would positively effect their careers as a Slayer-like death metal band. The court dismissed the case because the parents' claims were constitutionally unsupported. The lyrics were not harmful to children, did not incite or solicit criminal activity, contribute to the delinquency of children, or aid and abet violent acts. The parent's wrongful death claim failed because the murderers' acts of violence derived from Slayer's lyrics were not foreseeable. - JMC


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