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1. Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (I)
Highest Court N.D. Indiana
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Lawyer(s)
Nonprofit Organization(s)
Other Stormy Weather
Short Description As the District Court stated in its first opinion in this set of cases, "This is one of those cases that gives lawyers a bad name." Keep in mind, the three opinions summarized here are only follow-ups to the TEN opinions that preceded them in "Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (I)." In the original lawsuit, Cheryl Janky, a member of the Northwest-Indiana Doo-Wop group, Stormy Weather, brought copyright infringement complaints against her fellow bandmates and Indiana's Visitors Bureau for using a song she'd written, entitled "The Wonders of Indiana," at a visitors center without her permission. Though Defendants in that case presented valid defenses, such as saying the song was work-for-hire or was a product of joint authorship, the jury ultimately found in Janky's favor for $100,000. The problem was, to get that amount, Janky and her lawyers did so many ridiculous things in court they'd racked up sanctions equalling around $20,000 and spent well more on attorneys' fees than the jury's verdict. Though some appeals were legitimately (though unsuccessfully) filed in that suit, Janky and her attorneys simultaneously brought THIS suit, which alleged various theories, including state constitional violations and the tort of "Abuse of Process," claiming Defendants' various defenses in the first suit were frivolous, despite the earlier judge already ruling they were not. The continuation of the lawsuit, the court found, was a paradigm of the "sunk-cost fallacy"; that, since so much money was already lost on the effort, losing a little more might be able to make it back. WRONG. In this case, not only were Janky's complaints dismissed, but more and more sanctions were filed against her and her lawyers for bringing a lawsuit blatantly contradicting earlier unsuccessfully appealed findings of fact in the same federal court. In addition to pointlessly prolonging litigation, Janky's complaints were absurd and tainted by "numerous typographical mistakes, run-on sentences, spelling errors, and pervasive inability to put down on paper a cogent, comprehensible English sentence." After all this, Plaintiff and her lawyers were collectively fined another $25,000 in sanctions. Then, to top it all off, the final decision was rendered in "Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (I)," and the $100,000 jury verdict was reversed by the Court of Appeals, which found the song was co-authored. Janky ended up with thousands of dollars in fines, and NONE in damages. Intense. - LSW


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2. Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (II)
Highest Court Seventh Circuit
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Individual(s)
Lawyer(s)
Nonprofit Organization(s)
Record Label(s)
Other Stormy Weather
Short Description This "over-litigated" case was mired by subpar lawyering and excessive legal filings, turning what could have been a rather straightforward copyright lawsuit into a pathetic symphony of sanctions, bogus motions, and attorneys' fees. The case revolves around the song "The Wonders of Indiana," written and performed by the Gary, Indiana doo-wop group, Stormy Weather. The band's leader Henry Farag, told the band that an Indiana visitors' center was interested in a song about the state, and songwriter, Cheryl Janky, took to the task of penning the tune. After some small changes were made, at Farag's suggestion, Janky regsitered the song in both of their names. When the song was released on CD, used at the visitors center, and included as "hold music" for the center's phone lines, Janky adjusted her registration to remove Farag's name and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit. A slew of motions, appeals, etc., followed, many of which pertained to procedural issues or to the numerous sanctions granted against Janky and her lawyers. These are well summarized in "Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (II)." At trial, Defendants presented various theories as defenses, including 1) the song was a work-for-hire, and thus owned by the visitors center or Farag and 2) the song was co-authored by Farag and Janky, as evidenced by her initial copyright registration naming Farag. After many motions were filed by Plaintiffs and denied, around $50,000 in sanctions were levied against Plaintiff and her lawyers (possibly more, since it's difficult to discern) over the course of this lawsuit. At trial, the jury returned a verdict for Janky, finding Defendants liable for $100,000 in damages, though around $15,000 in sanctions (against Janky herself) offset that amount. After more appeals and an alternate lawsuit was filed ("Stormy Weather for Doo Wop Song (II)"), the case found itself in the federal Court of Appeals. There, the court reversed the lower verdict in Plaintiff's favor, finding the song was co-authored by Janky and Farag; though Janky denied as much, the court held that the song was written with mutual intentions to be merged into an inseparable whole, and that Farag's contributions were independently copyrightable. The case was reversed and remanded, and Janky--facing tens of thousands of dollars in sanctions--seemed S.O.L. - LSW


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3. Paparazzi Wants Credit for Photo
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Photographer(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Time Warner, Inc.
TMZ Television
Other Lopez, Jennifer
Short Description Plaintiff is paparazzo who took film of Jennifer Lopez in 2004 that was used by TMZ on their show in 2008 during a section on Lopez's record contract. The Plaintiff is an unregistered corporation and did not apply for registration of the footage until 2009, when the suit was filed. The Court first found that the Plaintiff had no subject matter jurisdiction because there was no registration for the copyright. The mere act of registering is insufficient. Further, there was not complete diversity between the Plaintiff and Defendant Time Warner as they are both New York citizens. Lastly, the Court found that the Plaintiff could not sue under the business name because it lacked certification in New York state. The Plaintiff was dismissed without prejudice, which would allow him to re-file after meeting the procedural requirements. - JMC


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4. No Parking At N SYNC Gig = Lawsuit
Highest Court Appellate Court of Illinois
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Concert Attendee(s)
Defendants Music Promoter(s)
Music Proprietor(s)
N SYNC
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was a concert attendee for an N SYNC concert at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. Assuming the trip would take 25-30 minutes, Plaintiffs left at 6:30 for the 7:30 concert, but were not parked until 9:30, after encountering traffic and parking issues well beyond what they'd anticipated. Plaintiff sued, attempting to bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of the ticket purchasers who'd missed portions of the show (some of whom wrote letters), alleging contract breaches and common law consumer torts. After Plaintiffs failed to agree to Defendants' proposed settlement, the court refused to certify the class, holding there were no predominate issues of fact between those who arrived five minutes late and those who missed the entire show. The band members were not susceptible to personal jurisdiction, and, furthermore, Plaintiff's claims were substantively inadequate; there were no contractual guarantees or misrepresentations to form the basis for Plaintiff's complaints. Icing on the cake: Plaintiff already won a small-claims arbitration award against them for the price of the tickets. Perhaps assuming 25-30 minutes to drive to and park at a 40,000 person event was a bit unreasonable. - LSW


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5. N SYNC Film Causes Trouble
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 2005
Plaintiffs Film Producer(s)
Defendants N SYNC
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff was a video producer who contracted with N SYNC to film a performance for release in theaters worldwide. When Defendants learned that Plaintiff had asserted television rights while entering a contract with WB TV, Defendants sent a cease and desist letter, alleging he was in breach of their agreement. Plaintiff responded with his own suit, alleging breach of contract, and various torts, all of which were dismissed. Among Plaintiff's various breach of contract theories, he argued that delayed approval for things like sound mixes was actionable, but like all his claims, his failure to provide notice to Defendants that he perceived them to be in breach was definitive: without such notice he could not act outside the scope of his own rights under the agreement. Fraud and interference were also dismissed (negligence and fiduciary duty claims were gone before this opinion was rendered), while Defendants counter-claim for the breach, initially alleged in the cease-and-desist letter, was allowed forward. Following a judgment in Defendants' favor, there were numerous attempts to recover litigation costs and fees, and in the end, the District Court's holding was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. - LSW


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6. Winter Bros. Worm-Demon Counterparts
Highest Court Supreme Court of California
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Winter, Edgar
Winter, Johnny
Defendants Comic Book Artist(s)
Comic Book Writer(s)
DC Comics
Time Warner, Inc.
Warner Communications
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The DC Comic character Jonah Hex battled two half-human and half-worm villains, Johnny and Edgar Autumn. The villains were obviously based on the albino Winters brothers. The brothers sued for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendants were found to have transformed the brothers' appearance enough to be protected from lawsuit. The court found that the use of the brothers' real names and appearances in advertisements for the comic was protected by the incidental use privilege. The appellate court affirmed the judgment for the third time. - JMC


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7. No Mo' Peabo? Oh No!
Highest Court Court of Appeals of Georgia
Year Ended 1989
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Municipal Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Bryson, Peabo
Short Description Plaintiff entered contract with Defendant, a city alderman, for a Peabo Bryson concert, but Defendants canceled the show and Plaintiffs sued, recovering a little over $2,000 at trial. When Plaintiff appealed the judgment, he failed to produce the requested court transcript within a reasonable time, and his appeal was dismissed. The judgment was affirmed. - LSW


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