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1. Christian Country Song in School?
Highest Court M.D. Florida
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Public Shool(s)
Other Diamond Rio
Short Description The family of a child sued to enjoin the practicing and performance of a song by country music artist, Diamond Rio, called "In God We Trust," which is absurdly favorable to religion, even saying "There are those among us who want to push [God] out and erase His name from everything," but that "it's time for all believers to make our voices heard," and "Here in America He's the one we turn to." Obviously, this cannot pass the Lemon test for state actions, which requires them to be secular in intent and impact, and the court granted the family's injunction. - LSW


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2. Paul Wall Gig Raided
Highest Court Fifth Circuit
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
Defendants Police Officer(s)
Other Wall, Paul
Short Description As this court opinion makes clear, racism among governmental entities is not a thing of the past, though perhas we'd like to think it is. In the world of music, where racial lines sometimes delineate musical genres' intended populations, these prejudices may unfairly impact people who create, support, and promote specific genres. Hip-hop music, of course, is often the preferred target. In this case, Plaintiffs were two individuals who owned and operated Club Retro, a hip-hop club in Alexandria, Louisiana, operating legally under license from all appropriate agencies. Specifically, the Retro was allowed to admit patrons between the ages of 18 and 21, so long as they did not drink alcohol. The club took appropriate precautions to prevent the admission of illicit drugs, firearms, etc., and complied with governmental restrictions. Regardless, Club Retro was the subject of an excessive, violent S.W.A.T.-style raid, in which a group of police officers burst into the club with shotguns, handguns, and protective gear, physically, verbally, and arguably sexually assaulted numerous Plaintiffs, detained attendees for hours on end, denied patrons access to bathrooms, searched the entire establishment and everyone there, and committed other egregious acts in the process. Despite the intensity of the raid, the club, at the time the officers arrived, was operating legally: it was NOT overcrowded (only 500 people were there, though the capacity neared 700); underage patrons, who were fined by the officers, were present under governmental sanction; and only 7 people (less than 1%) were found with any illicit drugs, which is likely less than at a Phish gig. To make matters worse, the police blockaded a second concert, featuring Paul Wall, the following month, which prevented all but 67 people from attending. Plaintiffs sued, alleging First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations, and the governmental entities claimed "qualified immunity." Thankfully, the federal courts sided with Plaintiffs regarding Fourth Amendment accusations: the officers' actions were not supported by and plainly exceeded any administrative or inspective authority claimed by Defendants, and, in citing underage drinking and fire code violations as jusitications, the raid, arrests, and searches and seizures were objectively unreasonable and unsupported by even an inkling of probable cause. However, the court refused to find Defendants liable under First and Fourteenth Amendments, despite the officers' use of racial epithets during the raid. Though it's sad Defendants were allowed excuses for some of their actions, it's good to know their unacceptable behavior was sanctioned to a large extent. - LSW


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3. "The Man" vs. 2 Live Crew (IV)
Highest Court Fifth Circuit
Year Ended 2004
Plaintiffs 2 Live Crew
Concert Attendee(s)
Promoter(s)
Defendants County Entity and/or Official(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Rap group members, individual concert-goers, and concert promoters sued a sheriff's department for violation of First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendment rights when the sheriffs set up road blocks and checkpoints outside of a concert planned in Mississippi. The court granted qualified immunity to the sheriffs on some, but not all of the constitutional claims. While several opening acts are reported to have performed, 2 Live Crew did not perform at the Mississippi concert. - SKR


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4. OzzFest Cancelation Unconstitutional
Highest Court D. New Jersey
Year Ended 1997
Plaintiffs Marilyn Manson
Music Promoter(s)
Defendants State Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Black Sabbath
Osbourne, Ozzy
Pantera
Short Description Manson and his promoter sued New Jersey's entertainment authority for preventing OzzFest '97, alleging numerous constitutional violations under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as state law claims arising from the contractual negotiations prior to cancellation. After N.J. authorities decided not to allow the festival to proceed, so long as Marilyn Manson was on the bill, other bands, such as Black Sabbath, stated they would not perform if Manson was excluded. The entire show was canceled, and the show's promoter joined Manson's suit against the authority, requesting an injunction against the preventative state action. The court found, even if the forum was "non-public," the action would still be violative, and granted Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary relief. The show must go on. - LSW


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5. Really, Really Ticked Photographer Keeps Suing (I)
Highest Court First Circuit
Year Ended 1996
Plaintiffs Photographer(s)
Defendants Capitol Records
Music Manager(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
State Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Ross, Diana
Segar, Bob
Short Description A photographer claimed that preventing his photography at public events constituted a violation of his First Amendment rights. The photographer had been prevented from taking pictures at concerts held at the Providence Civic Center when the venue's contracts with performers prevented photography. The photographer had frequently sued the promoters and others, often being dismissed for failing to comply with procedural rules. The Court upheld the dismissal of his latest claim for many reasons, but mostly dealing with the photographer's refusal to abide by rules. - JMC


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6. "The Man" vs. 2 Live Crew (III)
Highest Court Superior Court of Connecticut
Year Ended 1995
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants State Entity and/or Official(s)
Other 2 Live Crew
Short Description According to state statute, promoters of 2 Live Crew concert were required to have police officers present at an upcoming concert in Connecticut. Officers were indeed present at the concert, and the promoters received a bill for approximately $2,000 a month later. The court held that the statute requiring payment for police services by the promoters was constitutional under the First Amendment. - SKR


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7. They Fought the Law, and They Won!
Highest Court Supreme Court of Washington
Year Ended 1994
Plaintiffs A&M Records
Alice in Chains
Artist(s)
Atlantic Records
Bertelsman Music Group (BMG)
Capitol-EMI Music
Criminal Nation
Elektra Records
EMI Records
Estrus Records
Geffen Records
GRP Records
Heart
Island Records
MCA Records
Music Distributor(s)
Nirvana
Pearl Jam
Polygram Records
Priority Records
Queensryche
Record Label(s)
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Schuur, Diane
Seven Year Bitch
Sir Mix-A-Lot
Sire Records
Sony Music
Soundgarden
Sub Pop Records
Tower Records
Warner Bros. Records
Defendants County Entity and/or Official(s)
State Entity and/or Official(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Soundgarden, as well as numerous other musicians and record labels, sought to declare a state obscenity statute regarding "erotic sound recordings" constitutionally void on its face, since it interfered with the artists' ability to freely express themselves, access their ideas, and manage their business . Ruling in favor of Soundgarden, the Supreme Court of Washington held that the statute was a prior restraint on the artists' protected speech, that the statute was overbroad since it reached constitutionally protected conduct, and that the statute violated due process. Judgment for Soundgarden. - SKR


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8. "The Man" vs. 2 Live Crew (II)
Highest Court D. Rhode Island
Year Ended 1990
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Other 2 Live Crew
Short Description A Town Council learned of 2 Live Crew's reputation and attempted to prevent a planned concert in Rhode Island by revoking the promoter's entertainment licenses under town ordinances. The court granted the promoters a preliminary injunction, preventing the town council from holding a hearing to consider revocation of the promoters' entertainment license. - SKR


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9. Priests Perform Rock Operas Without License
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 1976
Plaintiffs Music Publisher(s)
Stigwood, Robert
Defendants Catholic Priest(s)
Nonprofit Organization(s)
Other Mission Singers
Who
Short Description After consolidating two different cases, each involving the Contemporary Mission, an entertainment-focused organization of renegade former-Catholic priests, whom the institution does not seem to appreciate, known for having promoted the popular singing group the Mission Singers in the late 1960s and for their surprisingly popular "DiscoTeach" style of religious preaching. (For more about them see also "Mission Singers Really 'Nonprofit'?"). After their organization performed "Jesus Christ Super Star" and the Who's "Tommy," both rock operas, without permission from the songs' copyright owners, they were unsurprisingly sued for both. Among their defenses, they argued for religious use exemption and fair use, and, in all seriousness, the Plaintiffs argued that "Jesus Christ Super Star" was unoriginal, having been copied from the Bible. In the consolidated appeal, the Second Circuit upheld lower courts' finding against Defendants, and specified how damages should be calculated: follow the statutory formula and fine them $250 for each unauthorized performance. The trial court took special pain to explain that the First Amendment does not literally apply. The Plaintiffs asserted that they were using the copyrighted material as a way of attacking the perceived blasphemy. While the Plaintiffs do not have a copyright to the Bible or its story, they have a copyright in their original musical and lyrical interpretation. It is that nature that gives them protection. The Defendants' minor changes did not remove it from pure theft. LSW & JMC


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10. Students: "Let Us Show Lennon/Ono Film!"
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 1973
Plaintiffs University Student(s)
Defendants Educational Institution(s)
Individual(s)
Other Lennon, John
Ono, Yoko
Short Description Students at Western Kentucky University booked a room to show "The Films of John Lennon and Yoko Ono," which contained a particularly explicit scene in which a fly flies around and on the naked body and genitalia of a woman (Ono, that is). When the University cancelled the film's showing, the students sued alleging some violation of their constitutional rights occurred, allegedly First and Fourteenth Amendments (state actions restricting free speech). The court did not agree, saying cancellation of the show was within the contractual rights they'd agreed to; the University deemed the show "inappropriate," and did not want any association. - LSW


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11. Smothers to CBS: "You're Smothering Us!"
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 1972
Plaintiffs Smothers Brothers
Defendants CBS, Inc.
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The Smothers Brothers' censorship troubles are well known. The Brothers were razor-sharp cultural and political critics, and often featured humor that was controversial for its day (such as criticizing racism and the Vietnam War). The show's cancellation during the 1969-70 season was largely a result of its content. So was this lawsuit and numerous others. Here, Plaintiffs (the brothers Smothers) brought suit against CBS, alleging private causes of action under the Federal Communications Act and the First and Fifth Amendments, requesting over $1 million in damages. They also argued that CBS's actions were so heavily regulated by the FCC that they constituted "state action." The court held (1) that there is no private right of action under the Act, (2) that no court has ever granted damages for First or Fifth Amendment violations, and (3) that CBS's activities, though undertaken in compliance with the FCC's standards in exchange for state licensure, were not "state action" but merely "private activities." The court disposed of Plaintiffs' complaints on summary judgment. Related breach of contract claims were litigated in "Smothers' Contract Breached.") - LSW


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