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1. Lymon's Teenagers Sue Lymon
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 1992
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Defendants Big Seven Music
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
Estate of Artist(s)
Goldner, George
Levy, Morris
Roulette Records
Other Lymon, Frankie (and the Teenagers)
Short Description When the 1950s singing group, The Teenagers, well known for their cuddly little singer Frankie Lymon, recorded their song "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," for Defendants Morris Levy and George Goldner and their record companies, they didn't realize they'd been duped out of copyright ownership. Levy and Goldner registered the song in their own names, including Lymon as well. The song was a huge success. By 1969, however, Plaintiffs became aware they'd been cheated, though Defendants allegedly intimidated them through the early 1980s, preventing them from filing suit of any sort. When the band members finally brought suit in 1987, a federal District Court found the two former-Teenagers (not Lymon, Levy, or Goldner) were the writers of the song. They were initially awarded royalties back to 1969, but follow-up cases limited this holding and whittled the reward to nothing. First, the court found the statute of liminations blocked all royalties other than those earned in the three years prior to filing suit. This finding arose from a similar suit for co-ownership brought by an illegitimate child of Hank Williams. But on appeal, the Second Circuit found the Williams case unrelated. The Circuit Court found that, when causes of action accrued so long ago, damages are available for recent time periods only when some uncertainty surrounded Plaintiffs' rights (e.g. uncertain parentage), which could explain the lag in legal action. Where, as here, Plaintiffs were aware of their rights, their causes of action accrued well outside the statute of limitations, which constituted an absolute bar to all recompense. If Plaintiffs had been unsure of their co-ownership rights, some damages may have been available. But Plaintiffs knew at the time of the song's authorship that they were co-owners, and thus no requisite uncertainty was present. Even assuming their actions were prevented by Defendants' actions, the statute of limitations kicked in at the very latest by the eary 1980s, when the band acknowledged to the media they'd been "bilked" out of ownership. Thus their lawsuit, filed in 1987, was too late. They later tried unsuccessfully to sue for trademark infringement (see "Teenagers vs. Frankie Lymon"). Their fates still turned out better than little Frankie, who died of a herion overdose in 1968 at the age of just 25. His estate was sued in this case. - LSW


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2. Jimmie Rodgers vs. Record Label
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1990
Plaintiffs Rodgers, Jimmie
Defendants Levy, Morris
Roulette Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff is one of three well-known musicians of a similar name, along with the early 20th century "hillbilly" singer whose spelling is identical and the African-American blues artist named Jimmy Rogers. In this case, Rodgers sued Roulette Records, his former record label, for drastic underpayment (in essence nonpayment) of royalties according to contracts written in the 1960s. While many of Plaintiff's actions were blocked by statutes of limitation, recent unpaid royalties were not. After litigation began, Defendant tendered $9,000, which the District Court counted towards the $10,584 award it granted for the immediately preceding six years not blocked by statutes of limitation. - LSW


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3. Shearing Sued by Owner of Shearing Song
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1981
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Defendants Levy, Morris
Music Publisher(s)
Shearing, George
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Sir Shearing is a jazz pianist who has charted from the 1950s through the 1990s and created a piano technique called "Shearing's voicing." In 1952, he assigned all copyrights up to the end of the twenty-eight year term to a composition called "Lullaby of Birdland" to the Defendant, a publisher. In 1953, the Defendant assigned some rights to the Plaintiff. That contract also gave the Plaintiff the rights to the renewed copyright, should the Defendant have control. Later, Shearing assigned the renewal rights to another Defendant, the son of the original assignee. The Plaintiff claimed that this transfer was done to defeat their interests and defraud them of the interest they purchased in 1953. The Defendants claimed that although they had a familial relationship, their companies were separate. Although there was no personal liability, the Court found there were issues of fact because the Plaintiff's contract covered the original Defendant's ownership or control of the entity. In this case, the Defendant has a majority position in the son's company. - JMC


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4. Lennon's Trouble With Levy
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 1977
Plaintiffs Big Seven Music
Levy, Morris
Defendants Apple Records
Capitol Records
EMI Music
Lennon, John
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description John Lennon and Morris Levy had a very tenous relationship, which arose after Levy accused Lennon of infringing Chuck Berry's song "You Can't Catch Me" in Lennon's "Come Together." In settlement of this dispute, Lennon promised to include three songs for Levy's benefit on his next album, and allegedly orally promised to record an entire album of rock n' roll covers produced by Phil Spector, which was to be released by Levy as a mail-order album. EMI Records, the label to whom Lennon was signed, refused to allow their exclusive artist to release anything through Levy, and when Levy said he intended to release the album anyway, Capitol rushed out their own version and told retailers Levy's version lacked permission. When Levy sued Lennon, Apple Records, and EMI for breach of contract, the District Court found there had never been an oral contract regarding the full album; the terms were only tentatively discussed before EMI issued its decree. The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment. Regarding counterclaims brought by Defendants for copyright infringement, Lanham violation, and various other similar actions (see the list associated with this entry), the appellate court affirmed a finding in Lennon's favor, saying Levy's release deprived Lennon of around $50,000 of royalties (100,000 copies of Levy's were sold) and $35,000 in reputational damages. But because Lennon had legitimately agreed to record three songs for Levy in the settlement over "Come Together," the court also granted Levy royalties of $7,000, which were unpaid on Capitol's legitimate release - LSW


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