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1. Victory to Virgin: "Hawthorne's Ours!"
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Victory Records
Defendants Virgin Records
Other Hawthorne Heights
Short Description Hawthorne Height's public "beef" with Victory records has been, as the court acknowledged, well-documented. When Victory Records sought to ensure that Hawthorne's 2006 album, "If Only You Were Lonely," beat out Ne-Yo's concurrently-released album on the Billboard 200, the label published a "manifesto" in Hawthorne's name, framing the two releases as a battle between rock and rap, which many people construed as racist. Furthermore, they encouraged Victory "street team" members to hide the Ne-Yo album to prevent it from being purchased. A very public lawsuit erupted in which, interestingly, Hawthorne was released from their Victory contract because the label's owner, Tony Victory (nee Brummel) forgot to put an exclusivity provision in the agreement (see "Hawthorne Heights Contract Exclusive?"). This lawsuit followed several years later, brought by Victory against Virgin Records, the label with whom the band subsequently signed, though they are no longer on the roster. Victory argued that the band's dismal sales on their third album resulted from Virgin's "interference." In this opinion, the court granted Virgin's motion in limine to exclude Victory's expert witness from testifying about the damages Victory incurred from Virgin's interference. The court held that 1) the expert incorrectly relied on Victory's internal figures, as opposed to objective outside sources, 2) Victory's expert employed the "yardstick" method for determining lost sales, but only used one band, Paramore, as a comparison, and 3) the expert failed to consider convincing alternative reasons for the band's low sales, such as negativity surrounding the "manifesto" and anti-rap campaign that was very negatively perceived by the purchasing public. Expert not allowed. - LSW


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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. Mike Love's Long Fight With Brian
Highest Court Ninth Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Newspaper Publisher(s)
Sanctuary Management
Sanctuary Records
Website Proprietor(s)
Wilson, Brian
Other Beach Boys
Short Description Mike Love sued Brian Wilson after Wilson released a successful album in 2004, Smile, with solo versions of Beach Boys songs and new solo material. Wilson went on tour in Great Britain, among other places, to promote his new album. Part of the promotion for Wilson's album and tour was a CD distributed by the British newspaper the Mail on Sunday containing some of his new material. Only 425 of those CDs were distributed in the U.S., and only 18 of those were distributed in California. Meanwhile, Love was touring on his own as The Beach Boys in Great Britain. Love was concerned that Wilson's tour would dampen his ticket sales and brought the present lawsuit. The court entered judgment for Wilson, holding that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over the British company that licensed and recorded the CD. The court also declined to apply the Lanham Act extraterritorially to encompass acts solely committed in Great Britain. [early suits are all jurisdiction, but later suits each address different issues] - SKR


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4. Bob Marley Bootleggers Busted
Highest Court D. Nevada
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Fifty-Six Hope Road Music
Zion Rootswear
Defendants Clothing Manufacturer(s)
Individual(s)
Music Merchandiser(s)
Other Marley, Bob
Short Description Bob Marley's children and the company they licensed to sell items bearing his image sued a company, Avela, that restored and sold artwork and other images. Marley's licensee, Zion, dealt with Avela at a trade show in 2005. The parties disagreed whether Avela had some images of Marley in their demonstration materials at that time. Another defendant sided with the plaintiffs in saying Avela did not. After the show, the parties did not reach a licensing deal. Avela claimed that the images in the book came from a photographer, Rabanne, who had been given licensing for the photos by Marley himself. The photographer denied given Avela these photos at the time and refused to backdate a contract for Avela; he also denied having Marley's permission to use the photos. After one abortive lawsuit in 2007, the plaintiffs learned Avela had licensed the images for clothes sold in Target and other retailers during 2008. The clothes usually had images or phrases like "One Love" on them. Avela noted that the retailers were the ones who would advertise the clothes as featuring Bob Marley - the clothes never said the name. The plaintiffs used an expert whose studies indicated a likelihood that consumers could be confused as to whether Marley's successors licensed the shirt. The plaintiffs were granted a restraining order and injunction on their copyright infringement suit. The defendants claimed to be careful never to use the words "Bob Marley" and that the plaintiff's have no trademark in Marley's image or particular photograph. They also denied the Nevada state publicity claim because Marley's people did not register the trademark timely. The Court first considered the trademark claim to the name "Bob Marley." The Court rejected the plaintiff's assertion that their trademark extends to every image ever shot of Marley. That argument would make the person a trademark, which is untenable. The exception would be if one particular image was used specifically, but Marley's own businesses used hundreds of different photos. Essentially, the name Marley and the image are different. The court then turned to the Nevada claim. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs waited too long to register a claim under Nevada state law, and the plaintiffs responded that the timing was not an issue because the violations were on-going. The Court found that a successor-in-interest can register a mark but that violations outside of Nevada do not trigger the clock. The Court rejected an argument that the estates of people predeceasing the statute are forbidden its protections. - JMC


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5. More Hendrix Trademark Litigation—
Highest Court W.D. Washington
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Authentic Hendrix
Experience Hendrix
Defendants Website Proprietor(s)
Other Hendrix, Jimi
Short Description This is one among many lawsuits regarding the right to use Jimi Hendrix's name, likeness, etc., in combination with commercial ventures. Plaintiffs are the official entities and Defendants an outside company distributing Hendrix-based materials. In the most recent decision, the court found the Washington publicity statute unconstitutional because it granted post-mortem publicity rights to all celebrities, regardless of the law of the state they were in when they died (this violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution). The court also discussed whether "nominative fair use" barred Plaintiffs actions, but did not hold either way at this stage, and, further, found that Defendants stated state law claims against Plaintiff arising from Plaintiff's disparaging phone calls placed to Defendants' customers. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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6. Village Person vs. Village People
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Village People
Short Description The Village People, though their name and image was been well-preserved through the years and has undoubtedly become a staple reference in American pop culture, enjoyed only a brief period of success, between the years 1977 and 1979. The band was formed by a production company that owned all associated trademarks to the band's name and image. In their initial existence, Defendant was the "cop" persona and a lead singer in the band. After Defendant left the band in 1979, the group re-grouped numerous times with different members. Plaintiff in this case is the corporate entity formed by the other members, which received permission from the trademarks' owner. Near the end of the first decade of the 2000s, Defendant began to threaten Plaintiff and the band's new members, alleging their performances constituted "fakes" and consistently reiterating that he intended to "dry up" their commercial feasibility. He even attended various events in his cop uniform and intimated what appeared to be gun shot hand motions. After the sent a cease and desist letter and communicated with various third parties that intended to book the band, all explaining his intention to sue the band, Plaintiff brought actions for interference with contracts and business, unfair trade practices, and more. Defendant counter-claimed and asserted several affirmative defenses. Of importance to this court opinion, Defendant cited California's "Anti-SLAPP" statute, which allows Defendants to strike complaints that chill protected speech activities. Unfortunately for Defendant, the court found, first, that Plaintiff's suit arose from much more than his letter, a "pre-litigation communication," but also from his numerous other actions and blatant attempts to interfere with their success. Second, they had demonstrated a probable success on the merits of their complaint. Thus, Defendants' Anti-SLAPP motion was denied. - LSW


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7. Intruders Intruding on Intruders
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Other Intruders
Short Description This is a classic type of case, in which an old R&B band, here The Intruders (the foundation for the "Sound of Philadelphia"), split off into multiple touring units, each managed by a former prominent member of the band. Plaintiff claimed to have been transferred ownership of the name, and sued Defendants for various counts, including trademark infringement, unfair competition, and interference with performance contracts, the latter arising from Defendant calling clubs and advising them that Plaintiff was not the "real" Intruders. Over several opinions, the court found that neither faction had received title to the name from the name's original owner, but that Defendants had a license, which they could enforce against Plaintiff. To determine this, the court followed the "chain of title" to the band's name. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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8. Kid Dances on YouTube, Gets Sued
Highest Court N.D. California
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Universal Music
Universal Music Group
Other Prince
Short Description The facts behind this case--if not the case itself--are infamous. Plaintiff videotaped her son dancing to a Prince song, "Let's Go Crazy," which she then posted to YouTube. Universal Music sent a "take down notice" to YouTube, alleging the video was infringement. This lawsuit was brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Plaintiff's behalf, accusing Universal of misrepresenting facts to YouTube under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and including other, somewhat-related claims. Plaintiff, of course, claimed "fair use," while Defendant claimed "bad faith" and "unclean hands." Most court opinions involved only procedural issues, but the sole published opinion denied Universal's motion to dismiss. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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9. Chris Brown's Manager Bites
Highest Court E.D. Virginia
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Sony Music
Zomba Records
Other Brown, Chris
Short Description Plaintiff is Chris Brown's original manager, who signed a contract with Brown's mother when he was underage. Upon reaching the age of majority, Brown disaffirmed the contract and signed with Defendants, who were aware of the pre-existing contract with Plaintiff. Plaintiffs sued his new associates for interfering with the contract they'd signed with Chris Brown, that he'd since disaffirmed. The court dismissed the complaint for failure to allege facts to support a legal claim, but did not find the statute of limitations to bar the action.- LSW


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10. Amr Diab's Concert Cancelation
Highest Court D. New Jersey
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Diab, Amr
Individual(s)
Music Promoter(s)
Talent Agent(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff is a small-time New Jersey promoter of Middle Eastern acts, according to the court, who alleged he entered an oral contract with Diab's agent for a performance, which was later breached with Diab contracted with another promoter, who is also Defendant in this litigation (for interfering with Plaintiff's contract). After several holdings regarding initial matters (the court denied Plaintiff's requests to amend his complaint and dismissed one count without prejudice), the court granted summary judgment for Defendants on all counts. Plaintiff had only asserted there was a contract, but assertions are not evidence. In fact, all available evidence (including Plaintiff's summary of the vague agreements they reached), indicates there was no contract. Thus neither Diab, his agent, nor any other promoter alleged to have "interfered" with Plaintiff's contracts are liable. - LSW


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11. Majors vs. Illicit Distributor
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Atlantic Records
Warner Bros. Records
Defendants Music Distributor(s)
Other Attitude
Gucci Mane
Jones, Mike
Lil' Scrappy
Plies
T.I.
Wall, Paul
Short Description The record labels responsible for releasing music by urban stars Mike Jones, Gucci Mane, Plies, T.I., Paul Wall, Lil' Scrappy, and Attitude, sued an independent music company for creating unlicensed "mixtapes." Defendant purportedly received licenses from artists' agents, and entered agreements with them in Texas. After Plaintiffs brought suit, the parties entered a settlement agreement containing a preliminary injunction, which Defendant subsequently breached by continuing distribution of infringing mixtapes. Defendant's motion to transfer venue to Texas, where its contracts were entered, was denied; while the action could have been brought there, Plaintiffs' witnesses resided in New York, and Defendant could not force its preferred venue by including Texas-based third-party Defendants of its own. Further, Plaintiffs' motion for civil contempt for granted; Defendants continued distribution of mixtapes was undertaken with minimal efforts to ensure compliance with the injunction. Plaintiffs were granted percentages of Defendant's sales equal to the percentage of the mixtapes comprised of material owned by Plaintiffs. This remedy is funny, because Defendant didn't make any money from the releases, so Plaintiffs got nothing, and their motion to reconsider the remedy was denied. Nice. - LSW


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12. Madonna Wayne Gacy vs. Marilyn Manson
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Former Band Member(s)
Defendants Lawyer(s)
Marilyn Manson
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Madonna Wayne Gacy, a former member of Marilyn Manson's band, sued the band and other related entities for 24 different causes of action, including breach of contract, interference with contract, breach of fiduciary duties, and numerous other actions, arising from his lack of royalty payments and various other wrongs. Apparently, Plaintiff had been an original member when the band was formed as an equal partnership by written agreement in 1989, through which the members were to share in touring, publishing, record revenues and merchandise. Over time, when they became more successful, all original members except Gacy and Manson slowly exited the band for various reasons, including one Daisy Berkowitz, resulting in various other lawsuits. According to Gacy's complaint, Manson used band funds for personal use, cut off Gacy's salary and credit card, limited Gacy's access to musical equipment, ignored Gacy's workers' compensation inquiries, and tried unilaterally converting the band's partnership into an employer-employee relationship. The issue of this suit was whether Gacy's complaints against the lawyers, alleging breach of fiduciary duties, unfair competition, and breach of partnership, should be stricken as arising from privileged communications sent pre-litigation in letters to Gacy. The lawyers argued any misrepresentations made to Gacy were unintentional and made as Manson's counsel on Manson's behalf, while Plaintiff argued the lawyers knew of their misrepresentations (from previously representing Plaintiff himself) and made them outside the scope of litigation. The court held that all three of Gacy's actions arose from privileged content of letters written to Gacy in contemplation of litigation, and thus Plaintiff cannot use them as the basis for a legal complaint. Though Gacy denied anticipating legal action when the letters were received, he had obtained his own counsel to reply, and facts clearly indicated lawsuits were contemplated. The California appellate court affirmed Defendants' special motion to strike and dismissed Gacy's actions against the lawyers. - LSW


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13. Marley Re-Mixer: "Music Monopoly!"
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Producer(s)
Defendants Universal Music Group
Other Marley, Bob
Short Description Plaintiff is a re-mixer of songs who remixed certain Bob Marley compositions for the album "Roots Rocks Remixed," after obtaining a proper nonexclusive license to use the sound recordings at issue. When Plaintiff later received cease and desist letters from Universal Music Group, Plaintiff sued, claiming the letters constituted antitrust violations of Sherman Act and tortious interference with business relationships. Plaintiff sought to depose executives at Universal's headquarters and subsidiaries, and to add as new Defendants subsidiaries initially not included, such as Universal Recordings and Universal Recordings International. The court held that Plaintiff had showed depositions of new executives were relevant; authored numerous intra-office emails discussing the matter and Plaintiff's prior depositions did not provide the evidence sought. Further, despite Plaintiff's four previous complaints, amendments should be allowed to add subsidiary parties; Plaintiff was understandably uncertain, given the complex corporate arrangements of Universal and its subsidiaries, which Defendants were appropriate. - LSW


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14. Animal Lovers: "Cancel Rodeo Gig!"
Highest Court D. Nebraska
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Rodeo Producer(s)
Defendants Nonprofit Organization(s)
Other Matchbox Twenty
Underwood, Carrie
Short Description A promoter for live music performances at Rodeo events booked Carrie Underwood and Matchbox Twenty to perform at certain rodeo events in Nebraska. An animal rights group called Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) phoned the performers and induced them to breach their contract with the promoter, saying the enterprise exploits animals. Plaintiff promoter sued SHARK in federal court, alleging diversity jurisdiction, for tortious interference with contract. After a settlement with another Defendant reduced the amount in controversy under $75,000, the court nevertheless upheld subject matter jurisdiction, since it had existed at the time the complaint was filed. Defendant challenged personal jurisdiction in the District Court of Nebraska, and the court agreed it lacked. Though Defendants agents had previously protested at one rodeo in Nebraska, this activity was unrelated to the facts of the instant case. Further, the court found that Defendants' distribution of literature and solicitations in Nebraska did not constitute "purposeful availment"of the forum and were unrelated to the controversy before the court. Since Nebraska had no interest in the dispute and the forum was inconvenient to Defendant, all the factors combined indicated personal jurisdiction lacked. Dismissed. - LSW


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15. Simone's Ex vs. Simone's Lawyer
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Producer(s)
Spouse of Artist(s)
Defendants Estate of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Other Simone, Nina
Short Description After Nina Simone died, there were apparently numerous lawsuits regarding ownership of her songs, including her ex-husband/producer (Plaintiff), her lawyer (Defendant), and others, involving percentages left to parties in her separation agreement (from Plaintiff) and her will, as well as contingencies owed to Defendant. Plaintiff was granted ownership to various Simone compositions through his separation from her, Defendant was given ownership as contingency, and a probate court had found some of the contests rights belonged to Simone's estate. Plaintiffs sued for declaration of rights for ownership of copyrights, and alleging that Defendants had entered into license agreements involving copyrights he didn't own, and that these licenses constituted various causes of action. However, Plaintiff here is also the defendant in a lawsuit in which Defendant here is the plaintiff, out in California. The claims Plaintiff brought here are identical to the claims raised in his answer to the other suit. The court dismissed this case under the "prior pending litigation" doctrine, so as to avoid duplicitous litigation. - LSW


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16. Temerarios Management Battle
Highest Court S.D. Iowa
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Concert Promoter(s)
Individual(s)
Radio Station(s)
Defendants Temerarios (Los)
Tour Promoter(s)
William Morris Agency
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Los Temerarios, while not well-known to the average American Discography reader, are an immensely popular Mexican band who has drawn large audiences to and headlined gigs at Radio City Music Hall, LA's Sports Arena (which they sold out), and Auditorio Nacional of Mexico City. Plaintiffs, a radio station and concert promoter, contracted with the band and their booking agent, William Morris Agency, to bring the band to Iowa for a performance. After organizing the event, advertising for it, and paying the band an initial $25,000, the band cancelled the event. Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract and interference with contract in Iowa, where the concert was scheduled to occur. However, the contract contained a forum selection clause, which determined Los Angeles to be the proper forum, whether state of federal. Plaintiffs tried invalidated the clause, but the court was unsympathetic. Forum selection was mandatory and unambiguous in the contract and a later addendum, and the terms were not unreasonable. Simply because a contract is given on a "take it or leave it" basis does not invalidate forum selection provisions within it; the parties had relatively equal bargaining power and Plaintiffs' decision not to seek counsel to review the contract is their own fault. The court transferred the case to Los Angeles. - LSW


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17. James Brown Bonds?
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Brown, James
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Pullman, David
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This lawsuit involves an obscure little investment vehicle known as a "Pullman Bond," though it is probably better known as a "Bowie Bond," named after David Bowie, the pop star that first utilized it. In the late 1990s, Bowie issued asset-backed securities of revenues generated by his pre-1990 albums, offering an interest rate of 7.9%, to be paid out of royalties from those albums. Bowie cashed in $55 million from the deal, though he forfeited 10 years worth of royalties (the life of the bonds). This lawsuit does not involve Bowie, but James Brown, who used a similar process in securing a $26 million loan from Defendant, the Pullman Group for which the Pullman Bond is known, shortly after Bowie's deal was finished. Brown pledged future revenue in exchange for the $26 million loan, but also promised Pullman, in writing, that he would refinance the assets "upon future recoupment of the securities" with Pullman alone. When Brown tried refinancing through a third party, Pullman sent a notice to that company, as well as Brown and his entities. The refinancing transaction broke down, and Brown sued for declaratory judgment of non-breach and for interference with business relationships. Pullman counterclaimed for declaratory judgment and breach of contract. The definition of "recoupment," as intended by the parties, determined whether there was a breach. Brown's claims for interference with business were dismissed, since Pullman's letter was only intended to explain its financial interest. So was Pullman's action for breach, since the refinancing, if it were a breach, was never consummated. Furthermore, a declaration of breach or non-breach is pointless, because the refinancing was abandoned. - LSW


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18. Augustana Management Woes
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Augustana
Music Manager(s)
Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Augustana was among the numerous somewhat "emo"-influenced modern rock bands to emerge during the middle of the new millennium's first decade, catapulted into the spotlight by their song "Boston," which was prominently featured in an episode of "One Tree Hill." After several more albums on Epic Records, the band is, as of spring 2011, still around and signed to Epic. However, relevant to this suit, they now have new management. This suit was brought by their original managers, who were fired by the band in favor of new management suggested by Sony, Epic's parent company. The managers sued the band for breaching their contract, and the band countersued for breach of fiduciary duty; this suit was set for arbitration, as dictated by the contract. However, simultaneously, the managers sued Sony and the band's A&R rep at Sony, alleging the Sony parties encouraged the band to ditch its managers, an act that constituted interference (negligent or intentional) with business relations. Because the contract action was to be arbitrated, the court here held that the interference actions should be stayed pending arbitration. Though the legal theories and issues presented are rather different, there were overlapping evidentiary issues, including documents, witnesses, etc., that would be identical between the two suits. For this reason, the Sony suit was stayed. - LSW


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19. 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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20. Aiken Won't Endorse Book
Highest Court Court of Appeals of North Carolina
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Book Author(s)
Defendants Aiken, Clay
Charitable Organization(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Music Producer(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff, the author of a book about Clay Aiken, sued the singer and his mother for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other legal theories, after they both refused to endorse and help promote the book. The court threw out the claims regarding the book, asserting that "Our courts cannot be used to force celebrities or their family or friends into making endorsements for another person's profit." - SKR


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