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1. Bodyguard: "I'm R. Kelly's Mentor!"
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 2007
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Kelly, R.
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The former security guard for R. Kelly claimed to have been more than hired muscle, but also a close friend and "mentor," who advised Kelly to learn a dance style known as "steppin,'" taught Kelly how to do the move, and helped Kelly write the song, "Step in the Name of Love." Plaintiff argued he'd offered his assistance and talents at a time when Kelly's public reputation was suffering, and, after the song and dance were released, Kelly's career was revitalized. Plantiff alleged Kelly promised him half the proceeds, and sued R. for breach of oral contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, and even assault. Kelly removed the case to federal court, saying Plaintiff's unjust enrichment claims were simply disguised copyright actions, and the court agreed. Misappropriation of Plaintiff's song and dance is either infringement or an argument for joint authorship, both falling within copyright's ambit, and does not contain the "extra element" necessary to remove it from exclusive federal jurisdiction. While the fraud, contract, and assault claims may stand, they will be tried in federal court as well. - LSW


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2. Songwriter: "R. Kelly Copied Me!"
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 2000
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Atlantic Records
Individual(s)
Jive Records
Kelly, R.
Music Publisher(s)
Time Warner, Inc.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner-Chappell Music
Zomba Music
Zomba Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff is an unknown songwriter who sued R. Kelly and his record labels, producers, and music publishers, arguing that Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," made famous on the "Space Jam" soundtrack, was copied from a song Plaintiff previously copyrighted with the same name. He sued for copyright infringement and various iterations of state and federal unfair competition and trademark laws. While Kelly's parties argued Plaintiff's non-copyright actions were preempted, the court held preemption was not the applicable doctrine to Lanham Act claims, but that, nevertheless, the Copyright Act is intended to encompass all actions within its own ambit. For valid federal unfair competition causes, Plaintiff needed to allege some affirmative misrepresentation beyond mere appropriation of copyrighted material, of which there were none. This is similar to the "extra element" test for preemption. The state actions, however, were preempted for precisely the same reason. The copyright claims were not reached, but all other counts were disposed by dismissal. - LSW


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3. A License to "Spoon"
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2000
Plaintiffs Tuff City Records
Tuff-N-Rumble Management
Defendants Sugar Hill Music
Sugar Hill Records
Other Boogie Down Productions
Kelly, R.
Mack, Craig
Monifah
Spoonie Gee
Short Description This is a confusing and multi-angled case; the true holder of copyrights for Spoonie Gee's "Spoonin' Rap" sued another entity (1) for illegally 'licensing' use of the song as samples in works by Craig Mack and Monifah, and (2) interfering with Plaintiff's relationships and copyright licenses, in songs by Boogie Down Productions and R. Kelly. Multiple opinions were rended on various issues. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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