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1. Record Label vs. Crofts (But No Seals)
Highest Court N.D. Georgia
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Seals and Crofts
Short Description Defendant Crofts, of Seals and Crofts, entered an agreement to record songs for Plaintiff, but purportedly breached this agreement, resulting in the instant lawsuit. Plaintiff's actions for fraud and equitable rescission were denied, but so were Defendant's motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, to transfer venue, or to compel arbitration, so Plaintiff's breach of contract claim survives. - LSW


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2. Salsa Kings Sue Record Label
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Cruz, Bobby
Family of Artist(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Ray, Richie
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiffs, Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz, are famed salsa musicians who supposedly repudiated their contracts with defendants after Defendants' "breached" by not paying or accounting royalties. They then sued for copyright infringement and rescission of the contract, when Defendants continued to exploit the compositions recorded under the agreement. The court found Plaintiffs were in no position the rescind contract; rescission is an equitable remedy and an extreme measure for the court to take. The contract contained no provision allowing for rescission upon underpayment of royalties, Defendants' actions were not so material as to defeat the object of the contract, and damages would be available to Plaintiffs if Defendant were in breach. Since their repudiation was invalid, there was no action for copyright infringement either. Defendants' summary judgment granted. - LSW


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3. Who Owns "Expose" Mark?
Highest Court S.D. Florida
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Producer(s)
Record Label(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Talent Agent(s)
Other Expos?
Short Description This is a trademark dispute between the band Expose (an all-girl, early 1990s singing group) and a film company that owns a trademark in the name for music performance-related products, regarding ownership of the name. During settlement negotiations between the band and Plaintiff's predecessor-in-interest during the mid-1990s, the band admitted Plaintiff's predecessor owned the name, and entered a trademark license agreement stating as much. In 2007, the band's legal counsel sent a letter saying Plaintiffs did not actually own the name, stating that the band would seek to register it for themselves. Plaintiffs brought suit for trademark infringement and unfair competition, among numerous other related causes of action. The band's entities counterclaimed, alleging the earlier settlements were induced by fraud, and requesting rescission of the settlement. After venue was found to be proper, the court held that--while the contract cannot be rescinded because Plaintiff was not a party to settlement negotiations, but merely purchased the name from that party--Defendants' counterclaim for fraud was validly stated. Justifiable reliance required further fact-finding, and could not be dismissed summarily. - LSW


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4. 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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5. Who Insures Doors' Litigation?
Highest Court Ninth Circuit
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Manzarek, Ray
Defendants Insurer(s)
Other Courson, Pamela
Densmore, John
Doors
Short Description During the 2000s, there was an infamous case between John Densmore, the Doors' drummer, Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson's families (all on one side) and the band's other two members (on the other). Plaintiffs argued Defendants' use of the Door's name with a re-formed version of the band constituted trademark infringement, and inflicted monetary and emotional injuries on Densmore and the others. Though the trial supposedly ended in Plaintiffs favors, there were no monetary awards. Here, Defendant Ray Manzarek (the keyboardist) sued his insurance company for failing to cover the lawsuit, alleging it arose from "advertising" (trademark claims) and "bodily injury" (emotional distress) and thus was covered under his insurance policy. The lower court ruled for Manzarek's insurance company, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding the insurer contracted to defend Manzarek for actions "potentially" covered under the agreement, which included the lawsuit underlying this dispute. Manzarek stated viable claims for breach of contract and implied covenant of good faith, and was granted leave to amend the complaints further. - LSW


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6. 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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7. Parties Fight Over Ryan Leslie
Highest Court D. Rhode Island
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Bad Boy Records
Casablanca Records
Combs, Sean
Leslie, Ryan
Mottola, Tommy
Music Publisher(s)
Warner Music Group
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Ryan Leslie is a singer, songwriter, rapper, and producer who inititally signed a management contract with Plaintiff, a lesser-known music manager, before signing significantly better deals with Bad Boy Entertainment and Tommy Mattola. Mottola's past clients include Hall & Oates, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. Leslie then signed with Casablanca, co-owned by Mottola. Plaintiff sued Leslie, but also sued both Mottola and Bad Boy for tortious interference with contractual relations. The District Court found it lacked jurisdiction over either of these defendants. In applying its three-part test for specific personal jurisdiction, the court looked to 1) the relatedness of Defendants' activities in the forum to Plaintiff's complaint, 2) Defendants' "purposeful availment" of the forum's laws and benefits, and 3) the reasonableness of exercising jurisdiction. All factors were held insufficient. Regarding general jurisdiction, Mottola's presense in the forum was not "continuous and systematic," and neither was Bad Boy's, despite the accessibility of their website in the state. - LSW


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8. Tritt vs. Nashvillain Record Label
Highest Court M.D. Tennessee
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Tritt, Travis
Defendants Category 5 Records
Individual(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Travis Tritt, once a top-notch country performer, later signed to independent Nashville label, Category 5, which only existed for around a year before declaring bankruptcy. The lawsuit in this case arose when their relationship soured as Tritt felt Defendant was not living up to its promises in the contract. Defendant moved to transfer venue to New York, in compliance with the forum selection clause contained in the contract. Despite Plaintiff's pleas, the court granted Defendant's motion. - LSW


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9. Labels Fight Over No-Name Rapper
Highest Court Court of Appeal of Louisiana
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Defendants Mr. Wicked
Music Producer(s)
Record Label(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description A good example of how litigation and contractual disagreements are not only common amongst the rich and famous, this case is between several small hip-hop production houses and record labels over the services of an unknown rapper, Mr. Wicked. Wicked had signed with Plaintiff, but later appeared on releases by defendants, such as the CD "Ghetto Booty." the appellate court held Defendants were not aware whether there was a valid contract with Plaintiff, and reversed the lower court's favorable ruling for Plaintiff on the conversion claim, finding for Defendants on all claims. - LSW


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10. Nugent Gig Canceled After Racist Remarks
Highest Court Court of Appeals of Michigan
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Amboy Dukes
Nugent, Ted
Defendants Individual(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Ted Nugent (The Nuge) was scheduled perform at Defendants' concert venue in Michigan, when the local community expressed dissatisfaction at racist remarks The Nuge allegedly made publicly about African- and Asian-Americans. When Defendants cancelled the concert and released an official statement providing their reasons for the cancellation, The Nuge sued, alleging breach of contract, libel and slander (for the press release), and various other claims. After the trial court submitted only the contract claim to the jury, Nuge was granted $80,000, which was the contract price, minus 25% he would have had to pay his manager. The state's appellate court affirmed: Nuge failed to provide any allegedly defamatory statements calling him a racist, since Defendants' press release merely acknowledged they were reacting to the public, which "attributed" the statements to The Nuge. Plaintiffs had properly stated a case for breach of contract, based on an oral contract formed between the parties. Regarding unfair competition and unjust enrichment claims, Plaintiffs had failed to state causes of action. Plaintiffs' evidentiary objections were also ignored, and the lower court's entire holding was upheld. Racist or not, The Nuge was $60,000 the richer. - LSW


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11. 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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12. Ashanti Breaches a Deal
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Music Producer(s)
Defendants Ashanti
Family of Artist(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description When R&B singer Ashanti was only 16 years old, she and her mother signed a production and demo-shopping agreement with Plaintiff, a production company. Ashanti later switched producers, and signed a release with Plaintiff, which guaranteed Plaintiff $25,000 for the master recordings after the split. Even though the new producer secured a record deal with Sony, the relationship did not last, and Ashanti picked up a third producer, who in turn signed to Universal, and produced for her an album that sold over a million copies. Plaintiff sued, alleging Ashanti breached the initial contract, asking for monetary damages, rescission, and an alternative action for unjust enrichment. On Defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court held issues of fact still existed; Defendant never paid the $25,000, and the statute of limitations did not bar the action. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff for $630,000, including lost royalties according to the agreement. On appeal, the court reversed all but $50,000 of the damages, saying the calculation had been made in "plain error." Using actual successes Ashanti experienced under the third producer was not necessarily an accurate proxy of how she would have fared under the second, and Plaintiff's release with Defendant did not contemplate any producers but the one for which Ashanti left Plaintiff, which was not the third. The trial was remanded to determine the issue of lost royalties and lost opportunities, but according to more realistic determinations. - LSW


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13. Bad Blood Between Bodeans
Highest Court W.D. Wisconsin
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Bodeans
Insurer(s)
Lawyer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The Bodeans are a Wisconsin-based rock band who had several Top 40 hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then later scored on the "adult contemporary" charts, as is common with artists whose sound brings to mind bygone musical eras. In the mid-1980s, the Bodeans hired Plaintiff has their manager, at which time the parties formed a partnership and music publisher, in which Plaintiff was an active participant and stakeholder. After renegotiating Plaintiff's contract in 1995, the band's attorney, Defendant in this suit, alerted Plaintiff that earlier agreements (overseen by Defendant, including Plaintiff and the band) were insufficient to transfer copyright interests in songs written by the band to the partnership, and thus Plaintiff had no ownership. This notice conveniently accompanied a letter of termination, ending the band's relationship with Plaintiff by 2003. The trial court refused to grant Defendants motions for summary judgment, allowed Plaintiff to continue on malpractice and negligent misrepresentation theories, both arising from Defendants' failure to complete a proper copyright transfer earlier and partnership agreement earlier in their dealings. After holding Defendants' malpractice insurer could not deny coverage in this suit, the court then transferred the case to the Eastern District of Wisconsin, where a similar lawsuit between the parties was still pending. Since no later opinions exist, the dispute was likely settled. - LSW


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14. BBC Suit Over Zeppelin Masterrights
Highest Court Superior Court of Maine
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Music Publisher(s)
Defendants British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Other Led Zeppelin
Short Description In a lawsuit over a previously settled "master rights" agreement, Led Zeppelin's publisher sued the BBC over non-adherence. Plaintiff's motion to amend complaint granted. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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15. Latin Star Cancels Contract
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Marketing Firm(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Rubio, Paulina
Other Mercedes Benz
Short Description Paulina Rubio is an internationally known Latin performer, and was scheduled to perform at Plaintiffs Mercedes Benz auto show. Plaintiff was hired directly by the Benz company, and when Rubio canceled two days before the performance, alleging various unreasonable and unbelievable justifications for the breach, Plaintiff was required to find a less successful replacement, which injured Plaintiff's reputation with Benz. Though Plaintiff was hired for several subsequent Benz automobile shows, their fee was allegedly less than it could have been if their bargaining position was not weakened. At trial, the court dismissed actions against all Defendants except Rubio, and further limited possible damages to the amounts Plaintiffs spent securing a replacement and the "discount" they'd granted Benz for the inconvenience. The jury found for Plaintiff against Rubio and awarded the maximum allowed, around $55,000. The appellate court affirmed; any damages other than the two easily calculated figures granted were too speculative and unproven. - LSW


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16. Santana's Ex-Employee Sues
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Music Licensor(s)
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Record Label(s)
Santana, Carlos
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff had worked as a licensing manager for Carlos Santana and his band and corporate entities, but was fired and replaced by a younger, more "enlightened" woman. Plaintiff, it should be noted, was 58, and was working in an newly-internet-based world. Plaintiff had, at various times, received (though not always signed) various employee handbooks that contained arbitration provisions. When Plaintiff sued, alleging various employment and termination related actions, Defendants sought to compel arbitration according to the handbook. The court, however, found that the mandatory arbitration provision was unenforceable for instituting a 1-year limitations period for all actions possibly arising from the employment, which is against public policy, and also that the provision was unconscionable as well, for the same reasons. - LSW


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17. Management vs. Beyonce
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Wilhelmina Artist Management
Defendants Beyonc?
Other Destiny's Child
Short Description Plaintiff, a company which represents artists and musicians in connection with commercial and marketing activities, sued Beyonce for breach of contract for nonpayment of commission due in connection with her endorsement of products made by the cosmetics conglomerate, L'Oreal, USA, Inc. Beyonce argued that Plaintiff breached the covenant of good faith by not revealing L'Oreal's true monetary offer for her endorsement. The court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment based on the clear and unambiguous language of the contract. - SKR


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18. Cash Money Contract Confusion
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs TVT Music
TVT Records
Defendants Cohen, Lyor
Island Def Jam Music Group
Universal Records
Other Cash Money Click
Gotti, Irv
Ja Rule
Short Description Ja Rule's original band, the Cash Money Click, was signed to TVT, but Rule left for Island Def Jam with producer Irv Gotti. After Def Jam allowed Rule and Gotti to release a Cash Money Click reunion on TVT, relations went sour, and TVT sued Def Jam. Judgment for Def Jam. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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19. 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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20. Lil' Jon's Copyright Trouble (I)
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Lil' Jon (and the East Side Boys)
Defendants Music Promoter(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Lil' Jon entered a contract to perform in Japan, but breached. When arbitration came out in Plaintiff's favor, Lil' appealed. Sorry, affirmed. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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