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1. Local Rapper's Murder Wrap
Highest Court Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs State Prosecutor(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Plush Brothers
Short Description This is an incredibly depressing case involving the murder of an individual after an argument over who could use the basketball courts on a playground. Defendant, was a rap artist in an underground Philadelphia group called the Plush Brothers. His case is only included in this database because they're mentioned by name, and because Defendant argued that his rap lyrics, which unsurprisingly described and purportedly glorified situations precisely like the crime for which he stood trial, should not have been admitted as evidence. (Defendant offered many other arguments, and only pursued this one early on; see the issues list for some others and the opinion list for the number of appeals). Among other reasons, the court found that since Defendant presented himself as a college student and an artist he opened the door to having his artwork and writing analyzed. Furthermore, the evidence was not harmful to him, even if somewhat prejudicial. - LSW


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2. Stones Biographer Sues Stones
Highest Court Third Circuit
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Book Author(s)
Book Publisher(s)
Defendants Book Publisher(s)
Individual(s)
Music Manager(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Musidor
Other Rolling Stones
Short Description Band agreed to cooperate in the production of a biography book, but then withdrew support. Plaintiff claimed the withdrawal was a breach of contract and motivated by a desire to support an alternate biography. Dismissed. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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3. Biz Markie's Sampling Problem (IV)
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Songwriter(s)
Defendants Biz Markie
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Tommy Boy Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Biz Markie was sued for illegally sampling a bass drum and a "reggae rap" from the Plaintiff's song "Bounce." The court denied Biz Markie's motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute, as the court held Plaintiff to a more relaxed standard as a pro se litigant. The court allowed the case to go forward with discovery. - SKR


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4. Dre, Storch, Xzibit Sued for Copying (I)
Highest Court Court of Common Pleas of Pennsylvania
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Aftermath Entertainment
Columbia Records
Dr. Dre
Individual(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Storch, Scott
Tuff Jew Productions
Xzibit
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description For anyone seeking to learn a little about licensing copyrights and song production, this is a great case. All parties admitted that Plaintiff created a drum beat and gave it to producer Scott Storch, who was associated with Dr. Dre, with the hopes they would like it and incorporate it into a song. When they did so (in an Xzibit track), he sued them for copyright infringement. However, his own testimony defeated his claim; he'd clearly given Defendants an implied nonexclusive license to use the song. Only exclusive licenses need to be in writing. Plaintiff sought to avoid this result by saying Defendants exceeded the scope of the license, but there was no evidence whatsoever to support this other than bare allegations. Perhaps Plaintiff has a suit in contract, but not copyright. (And his negligence claims are preempted as restating copyright actions). The court, in a later opinion, granted attorneys fees to Defendants as well, despite Plaintiff's objections. Taking the court's advice, Plaintiff later sued in state court ("Dre, Storch, Xzibit Sued for Copying (II)"). - LSW


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5. O'Jays vs. Philly Int'l Records
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs O'Jays
Defendants Gamble & Huff
Music Publisher(s)
Philadelphia International Records
Record Label(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Band members sued the owners of Philadelphia International Records for royalties. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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6. Delores Tucker Hates Gangsta Rap (III)
Highest Court Third Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Tucker, Delores
Defendants Estate of Artist(s)
Journalist(s)
Newsweek Magazine
Time Magazine
Other Shakur, Tupac
Short Description Related to both "Delores Tucker Hates Gangsta Rap (I)" and "Delores Tucker Hates Gangsta Rap (II)," this lawsuit involves civil rights activist Delores Tucker and the late "gangsta rap" superstar, Tupac Shakur. Infamously, in the mid-1990s, Tucker accused 2Pac (and his music business associates) of defamation, alleging his songs "Wonda Why They Call U Bitch" and "How Do You Want It," which allegedly contained verbal attacks against her, caused her emotional distress. She sued for, among other things, "loss of consortium," which is essentially the loss of sexual activity resulting from injury. This fact was exploited by 2Pac's crew, and mocked publicly. The court found the lyrics not to be defamatory, and obviously expressed 2Pac's personal frustration at Tucker's tendency for hatin' both player and game. Regarding the public mockery (focusing her action for loss of sex), the court also found for Defendants; it was neither defamatory nor malicious for Defendants to pay particular attention to Plaintiff's consortium claim. The Third Circuit found the public statements (not the lyrics) were capable of a defamatory meaning, and that actual malice could be shown regarding 2Pac's lawyer, whose comments focused on the sex-based aspect of her complaint. Judgment in favor of all other Defendants was entered. On remand, however, even claims against the lawyer were unsuccessful; slander requires a showing of "actual damages," not just bare allegations, and since Tucker hadn't proved any, Defendant's summary judgment was granted. - LSW


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7. McFadden's Unfortunate Tax Trouble
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Defendants Estate of Artist(s)
Spouse of Artist(s)
Other McFadden & Whitehead
Short Description Defendant is the unfortunate Estate of John Whitehead, once part of the Philly International Records songwriting powerhouse "McFadden & Whitehead," whose tendency not to pay taxes resulted in almost $6 million in unpaid taxes before he was murdered on May 11, 2004. His common-law wife sought to prevent collection, but Whitehead had willingly waived relevant statutes of limitation in previous attempts to make good on his debts, and the was no misconduct by the government. - LSW


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8. Songwriter: "Pay Me, Baby, One More Time!"
Highest Court Third Circuit
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Bertelsman Music Group (BMG)
Jive Records
Spears, Britney
Zomba Records
Zomba Songs
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Two songwriters who had prior dealings with an A&R person at Zomba and Jive Records submitted songs to their A&R for possible consideration for inclusion on a Britney Spears CD. Their song was entitled "What You See is What You Get." Interestingly, though coincidentally, songwriters in Sweden had just finished recording a song called "What U See is What U Get," and had already overlaid Spears' vocals on the track by the time Plaintiffs copyrighted their song. When Spears' song was released, Plaintiffs sued numerous Defendants (including Spears herself) for copyright infringement. Given the time-frame, the court held it was chronologically impossible Defendants had access to Plaintiff's work before finishing their song. Further, the songs weren't even substantially similar. Though Plaintiffs had superimposed the two songs on top of each other and shown some similarities, Defendants were able to do the same thing with three other songs. Any similarities were simply common among popular music. The name of the song is a figure of speech, so that similarity gets nowhere. The court of appeals affirmed. - LSW


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9. Pearl Jam Promoter Sues
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1999
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Music Promoter(s)
Other Pearl Jam
Short Description This case does not directly involve Pearl Jam, but is a dispute among parties that had previously agreed to work together on a ticketing system for an upcoming Pearl Jam concert. Plaintiff provided licensed technology to handle ticket sales for Defendants' upcoming concerts, and the two parties communicated between Pennsylvania and Calivornia via letter, fax, in-person meetings, and other forms of communication. After Defendant failed to provide Plaintiff with shares of stock according to an earlier-drafter memo, Plaintiff sued and Defendant argued the Pennsylvanian court lacked jurisdiction. Though much of the parties' activities took place in California, which was the site of contractual signatures, Defendants assertion that it contemplated "a long and profitable relationship" with a Pennsylvania-based entity, combined with interstate negotiations, constituted "minimum contacts" sufficient to confer on the Pennsylvanian District Court personal jurisdiction and illustrate Defendants contemplated litigation in the forum. - LSW


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10. Richard Ace vs. CNN
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1998
Plaintiffs Ace, Richard
Defendants TV Network(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff, a Caribbean singer/songwriter and owner of the trademark for his record company named "World Beat," sued CNN for using "World Beat" as a title for a weekly international music program, as well as for a portion of CNN's website. The court held that CNN's use of the name "World Beat" was not likely to be confused with Plaintiff's use of the name "World Beat" in the promotion and sale of reggae music. - SKR


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11. Rapper and Jazz Singer Broke!
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1998
Plaintiffs Ferrell, Rachelle
Kurupt the Kingpen
Defendants Capitol Records
Death Row Records
Interscope Records
Knight, Suge
Lawyer(s)
Music Manager(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Songwriter(s)
Other Daz Dillinger
Dr. Dre
Snoop Dogg
Tha Dogg Pound
Short Description In two different cases, consolidated by the bankruptcy court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, jazz singer Rachelle Farrell, whose work with Capital Records around 1990 sold around 700,000 albums, and rap artist Kurupt the Kingpen, former meber of The Dogg Pound (Snoop's back-up band), whose work with Death Row Records and assorted artists purportedly sold over 35 million copies in total, both declared bankruptcy and sought to reject their record contracts.


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12. Coked-Out Fan Sues for Injury
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1998
Plaintiffs Concert Attendee(s)
Defendants Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
Security Service(s)
Other Mötley Crüe
Short Description Motley Crue's fans are a motley crew in and of themselves. In this hilarious case, Plaintiff was quite obviously a burnout and an idiot; he broke his neck while drunk, coked out, standing on a 4-foot-hight barrier, and resisting security guards' attempts to bring him down and prevent him from rushing the stage. He even punched one of the guards in the face. Furthermore, his neck was already fragile from a moronic attempt to jump across an eight foot pit at a construction site a year earlier (again while drunk). At that's not even an exclusive list. Jeez. The court was very kind, and excluded the cocaine and other evidence from trial. Nevertheless, unsurprisingly, the jury found that any negligence on Defendants' part was inconsequential. Plaintiff was remarkably negligent himself. According to the court, Plaintiff's lawyer was pretty bad too, spending many hours researching a futile argument against the court's rather routine practice of trial bifurcation, presenting appeals on issues never objected to at trial, and seeking to admit expert testimony from someone without knowledge of the subject of his testimony. All evidence was strongly, undeniably in Defendant's favor. - LSW


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13. Delores Tucker Hates Gangsta Rap (I)
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1998
Plaintiffs Tucker, Delores
Defendants Death Row Records
Estate of Artist(s)
Individual(s)
Interscope Records
Iovine, Jimmy
MCA, Inc.
Seagram Beverages
Tower Records
Other Shakur, Tupac
Short Description In the 1990s, a well-known civil rights activist, Delores Tucker, began publicly and vocally speaking out against "gangsta rap." Along with many African-Americans of her generation, she saw the genre as being detrimental and counterproductive to everything she and her friends had worked so hard to accomplish in earlier times. Unfortunately, he stance against rap wasn't as nationally-accepted as her earlier activities. In fact, it seems she became the subject of some public mockery. In 1995, Interscope Records sued Tucker, alleging she'd interfered with their contacts with Death Row Records, bringing actions for extortion and racketeering (which seems a little extreme). Death Row also sued, and the two actions were consolidated. When Tucker protested the release of 2Pac's "All Eyez on Me" in 1996, she was arrested when Tower Records personnel called the police. In her suit against numerous defendants, she alleged defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, requesting $10 million. While her suit against most was barred by the one year statute of limitations in defamation cases (held to apply to IIED as well), 2pac's recent death gave rise to a renewed cause of action against the estate, according to a Pennsylvania statute, and her claims (alleging defamatory lyrics) were allowed. See also "Delores Tucker Hates Gangsta Rap (II)" and "Delores Tucker Hates Gangsta Rap (III)" for more on this set of events. - LSW


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14. Beatles' Faces are Beatles Property
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1997
Plaintiffs Apple Corps
Subafilms
Defendants Button Master
Other Beatles
Short Description Plaintiffs, the legal representative of the Beatles, sued the manufacturers and sellers of buttons bearing likenesses of the Beatles and certain other trademarks and copyrighted images belonging exclusively to the Beatles. The court, inter alia, granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on its claims for trademark infringement and unfair competition with respect to it's registered trademark in the name, "The Beatles" and its unregistered trademark in "The Beatles" logo with the elongated "b" and "t" letters. - SKR


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15. Cops vs. Punk Rock Album Art
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1996
Plaintiffs Fraternal Order of Police
Police Officer(s)
Defendants Alternative Tentacles Records
Biafra, Jello
Borders Group, Inc.
Crucifucks
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The Fraternal Order of Police of Philadelphia posted a sign, hoping to raise money, including a staged photograph of a slain cop, with a caption reading: "You wouldn't sacrifice your life for a million bucks. . . A Philadelphia Police officer does it for a lot less." When the Crucifucks (an anti-capitalist, anti-government, and all-around cliched and naive political punk band) used the photograph, without the text, the Fraternal Order sued for various violations of privacy, as well as defamation, common law copyright infringement, and others. In addition to the Crucifucks and their record label, the Frat sued Borders as well, likely as "deep pocket" defendants. Only Borders responded, and successfully received summary judgment on all counts; the Fraternal Order had no causes of action for privacy, since it's not an individual, and the police officer in the photo had nothing either, since, inter alia, his "likeness" had no stated value, the image was not susceptible to defamatory interpretations, and common law copyright was preempted (in this case) by the Copyright Act. After a default judgment was entered against the Crucifucks and their label, never having responded, they were successful in having the judgment reversed; Borders' arguments worked equally well for them, and their neglect was excusable. - LSW


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16. Snoop Cancels, Promoter Sues
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1995
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Dr. Dre
Knight, Suge
Knight, Suge
Music Manager(s)
Snoop Dogg
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description When Snoop Dogg (then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg) canceled his 1995 tour (with over a year before it was set to begin), multiple plaintiffs in various jurisdictions sued for breach of contract, fraud, etc., arising from the change in plans. This entry combines two such lawsuits, one in Pennsylvania and one in New York. Regarding the Pennsylvania action, Plaintiff brought contract and tort actions against numerous parties related to Snoop (including Interscope Records), all of whom defaulted, resulting in a default judgment against them. In the Pennsylvania opinion, the court allowed Interscope to vacate the judgment, holding it never had a contractual relationship with Plaintiffs and its default was not motivated by bad faith. In the New York action, however, moving Defendants (Snoop's agents for tours and booking) were not granted dismissal of the New York Plaintiff's fraud claims, though it was held they couldn't be liable for contract breach; while agents can be liable for torts committed on their principal's behalf, they are not liable for carrying out the principal's contract breaches. - LSW


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17. Georgian Promoters Sue for Breach
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1994
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Lawyer(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Other Charles, Ray
Short Description Plaintiff sued Defendant for tortious interference with prospective contracts in which Plaintiff was to represent Georgian musical artists (i.e. citizens of the country of Georgia) and bring Ray Charles to the Soviet Union for a series of performances. Negotiations to have Ray Charles perform in the Soviet Union fell threw, and he never actually performed in the country. The court held that Defendant tortiously interfered with some, but not all, of the contracts at issue. No formal contract was ever signed with Ray Charles in this case, and the court declined to find that Defendant tortiously interfered with contract negotiation with Ray Charles. - SKR & LSW


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18. New Kids Clothing: Highly Flammable
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1994
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Clothing Distributor(s)
Clothing Manufacturer(s)
Music Merchandiser(s)
Other New Kids on the Block
Short Description In 1990, the Plaintiff's daughter was wearing a New Kids on the Block T-shirt as a nightgown, when she hopped onto the kitchen counter, close to a lit stove, and the shirt burst into flames. The girl was seriously burned. The Plaintiff sued on their daughter's behalf those involved in producing and distributing the clothes under strict products liability, negligence, and breach of implied and express warranties. For themselves, the Plaintiffs sued for medical expenses, loss of consortium, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The various Defendants' all filed for summary judgment and cross-claimed amongst themselves. The Court denied the motion finding questions of fact concerning all the claims. The manufacturer and wholesaler seem to have had questionable practices and may have known that the t-shirts were not up to fire safety standards. Further, by way of marketing, the wholesaler knew that children were wearing the adult-sized products. The Court also allowed the Plaintiffs to claim punitive damages because of the degree of recklessness associated with the manufacture and marketing of the t-shirts. The Court then declined to rule on many of the Defendants' claims and defenses against each other, finding many questions of fact about how a jury might apportion liability against each party. - JMC


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19. Stokowski Wants Fantasia Royalties
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1994
Plaintiffs Estate of Artist(s)
Defendants Buena Vista Pictures
Walt Disney
Other Stokowski, Leopold
Short Description In 1940, Walt Disney released an epic musical and visual masterpiece called "Fantasia." The film made heavy use of classical compositions, most famously Igor Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring," all of which were conducted by Leopold Stokowski, the massively-popular celebrity conductor of the mid-twentieth century. Surprisingly, the film was not financially successful upon its release. However, in 1991, when it was released on video and laserdisc (remember those things?!?), it proved immensely popular. As often happens in this sort of circumstance, the sudden financial windfall brought old contracts and relationships to the fore, and ignited new complications and legal troubles. (See also "Copyrights of Spring Cause Copyriot.") In this slew of lawsuits, both the Philadelphia Orchestra, who performed the music in the film, and Stokowski's estate, sued Disney for various causes of action arising from the early 1990s exploitation of the film. Too many causes of action were alleged and too many opinions rendered to be fully explained herein. However, the gist of the suit is this: both the Orchestra and Stokowski's estate alleged that Disney's exploitation of the film on video/laserdisc constituted state and federal unfair competition, breach of contract for nonpayment of royalties, misappropriation and conversion, violation of their rights of publicity, and assorted related actions. Both also argued that they were joint authors, alongside Disney, of the resulting film. Disney's motion for summary judgment that the Orchestra's performance was one "for hire," and thus owned by Disney, was denied. Regarding the Orchestra's other claims, such as publicity, unfair competition, and contract breach, summary judgments were also denied.. As to Stokowski, several important rulings were rendered. First, the district court found that Stokowski's contract with Disney allowed them to exploit his performances in any technology later developed, and thus he was owed no new moneys for the video/disc release. Furthermore, Stokowski was clearly not a joint author of the work, but "for hire." And because the contract granted Disney such expansive rights, Stokowski's actions for common law copyright infringement, misappropriation, unjust enrichment, publicity rights, and trademark infringement all failed. He was also not owed royalties. However, the court refused to find an implied duty for Stokowski to indemnify Disney regarding their expenses in litigating the Orchestra lawsuits. These are not all the holdings in the related opinions; so please read them for a full understanding. - LSW


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20. Wacko Sues Pretenders, Harvard & More
Highest Court E.D. Pennsylvania
Year Ended 1993
Plaintiffs Mentally Unstable Individual(s)
Defendants Educational Institution(s)
Individual(s)
Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Pretenders
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This plaintiff somehow managed to waste 12 pages of official court reporters, and all he had to do was sue everyone he could think of and fit on one cocktail napkin. Suing Harvard, the Pretenders (Chrissie Hynde is alleged to be his wife, though she doesn't do her part), the U.S. President, the entire population of England, and others, Plaintiff argued the various Defendants wronged him in various ways. Not only is his suit frivolous, but the court found a permanent injunction appropriate, preventing Plaintiff from re-filing this (or similar) allegations against the parties. - LSW


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