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1. Grandma Run Over by a Copyright?
Highest Court N.D. California
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Music Publisher(s)
Shropshire, Elmo "Dr. Elmo"
Defendants Individual(s)
Other Brooks, Randy
Irish Rovers
Trigg, Patsy
Short Description Elmo Shropshire, better known as Dr. Elmo, is a comedic singer who most famously sang "Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer," a song written by Randy Brooks, with his then-wife Patsy Trigg, in 1979. After a Canadian citizen, Defendant, uploaded a video onto YouTube featuring a re-recording of the song by a Canadian folk group, The Irish Rovers, synchronized to images of reindeer, Dr. Elmo contacted YouTube and requested the video be taken down, saying it constituted copyright infringement of the song Elmo co-owned. After Defendant submitted his counter-notice alleging his actions were "fair use," and YouTube sided with Defendant, Elmo sued YouTube and Defendant. He soon dismissed YouTube but maintained his action against Defendant, alleging copyright infringement and misrepresentation under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the latter based upon Defendant's counter-notice to YouTube. The court held, first, that no copyright infringement could be maintained because all the allegedly infringing activities took place in Canada. Regarding the DMCA, the court found that Defendant's compliance with DMCA takedown procedure conferred personal jurisdiction over Defendant, but that Plaintiff failed to specify any specific misrepresentations, and that Elmo's failure to join his ex-wife, Patsy, constituted a failure to join necessary parties. Though Plaintiff's DMCA claim was dismissed, he was allowed time to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies. - LSW


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2. Stepney's Family Wants Royalties
Highest Court N.D. Illinois
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Estate of Artist(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Trust of Artist(s)
Defendants UMG Records
Other Stepney, Charles
Short Description Charles Stepney was the head producer at Chess Records, the pivotal Chicago-based record label immortalized in the movie "Cadillac Records," for some years during the late 1960s and 1970s, after time as a staff producer. Under his agreement with Chess, Stepney was to be paid a 3% royalty on 90% of the records released containing only his material, and half that percentage on foreign sales. However, when he died in 1976, he had only been provided with two accounting statements, which should have been tendered twice a year. His rights passed to his wife through his estate, and his wife died in 2008, after which Stepney's children, in the name of his estate and their newly-created trust, sued UMG--Chess's successor-in-interest--for breach of contract and fiduciary duties and multiple equitable remedies. In this opinion, the court ruled only on three counts of the complaint, dismissing Plaintiffs' claims for breach of fiduciary duty, because no fiduciary relationship was alleged, and constructive trust, because it is a remedy and not an independent cause of action. However, Plaintiffs' claim for unjust enrichment was not dismissed. Other causes of action were not discussed. - LSW


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3. Wu-Tang Claimant vs. Wu-Tang Clan
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Ghostface Killah
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
RZA
Wu-Tang Clan
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Ghostface Killah was once a prominent member of hip-hop luminaries Wu-Tang Clan, alongside RZA, GZA, Ol' Dirty, and all da rest. This suit relates directly to Killah's activities in the Clan, particularly his co-authorship of songs in which he provided lyrics over RZA's production work. Plaintiff alleged that he was not paid appropriately by RZA, Wu-Tang, or the band's publishing entity, and sued for compensation. After a non-jury trial found that Killah was owed for his contributions to the co-authored songs, the court reduced his award by 25%, which was the amount determined in the artists' publishing agreement to be retained by Wu-Tang's publishing entity. The court initially found that Killah did not adequately allege RZA to be personally liable for the entity's activities, because no evidence was presented to show the company was RZA's "alter ego," but later found that Killah could amend his complaint to state claims against RZA personally for designating 50% of royalty income to himself as an unauthorized "producer's fee." - LSW


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4. No Name vs. 50, Game, Dre., Etc.
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Black Wall Street Records
Game (The)
Interscope Records
Music Publisher(s)
UMG Records
Universal Music Group
Warner-Chappell Music
Other 50 Cent
Che Pope
Dr. Dre
Mike Elizondo
The Madd Rapper
Short Description Anyone who has perused this website for any length of time will probably be aware of how common it is in the hip-hop industry for "demo tape Plaintiffs" (as The Discography likes to call them) to sue artists, record labels, publishers (everyone involved in production of a rap song) for copying songs Plaintiffs sent in or, perhaps, played once or twice for one of the many people involved in writing, recording, and releasing some uber-popular urban hit. In this case, Plaintiffs wrote a song called "Elevator" in 2002, which contained the hook "This Is How We Do." The song was recorded but never released, distributed, or provided to the public in any way. It was, however, included on a demo tape the Plaintiffs used to shop for a record deal, which they purportedly played for some people in the industry. When Jayceon Taylor, a.k.a., The Game, released a song called "This Is How We Do," co-written by 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Mike Elizondo, Plaintiffs sued for copyright infringement. In arguing their case, they pointed out that, as an employee of Sam Ash Music, one of the Plaintiffs had met Che Pope, a producer who has previously worked with Fitty, Dre, Game, and others on different songs. Pope was allegedly a regular customer, and Plaintiffs played their songs for him at the store; Pope, however, does not remember meeting them. Based on these facts, the court refused Defendants' motions for summary judgment. The court found that Plaintiffs had alleged facts sufficient to raise the question of whether Defendants had access, through their connection with Pope, to Plaintiff's "Elevator." Further, both sides presented expert musicologist witnesses (Defendants' was Dr. Lawrence Ferrara, a common expert for industry parties) regarding the similarity of the songs and how common the similar elements were in the industry. Summary judgments denied. - LSW


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5. Erre XI vs. Luny and Yankee
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Artist(s)
Music Producer(s)
Songwriter(s)
Defendants Daddy Yankee
El Cartel Records
LT's Benjamin Records
Luny Tunes
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Universal Music Group
Other Erre XI
Short Description Plaintiffs are a group a songwriters and producers who were, in various ways, involved in the songwriting or production of the album, "Luny Tunes Presents: Erre XI," which was an album, released by reggaeton production duo Luny Tunes, featuring a musical duo called Erre XI, which was assembled by Luny Tunes. Plaintiffs, based in Springfield, MA, were tapped by Luny Tunes to participate in the album's creation, and were flown to Puerto Rico to embark on the creative process. Plaintiffs allege that their work was not only central to the Erre XI album, but also an album by Daddy Yankee, and that, not only were they not paid appropriate royalties, but their work was falsely attributed to Yankee and Tunes. Plaintiffs alleged multiple causes of action against multiple defendants, including copyright infringement and vicarious infringement, infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract. In this opinion, the court denied Universal's motion to dismiss the emotional distress, vicarious infringement, and breach of contract claims, finding Plaintiffs' claims sufficient to require additional fact-finding. However, Daddy Yankee, and his associated parties, were held not to be within the personal jurisdiction of the court (specific or general), which refused to "pierce the corporate veil" and find Yankee's corporate activities were attributable to Yankee personally. - LSW


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6. Songwriter: "Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!" (II)
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Bon Jovi
Individual(s)
Lawyer(s)
Major League Baseball
Music Publisher(s)
TBS, Inc.
Time Warner, Inc.
Other Boston Red Sox
Short Description Plaintiff previously brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against a gaggle of Defendants, including Bon Jovi, the Boston Red Sox, numerous record labels and television companies, and more, alleging that a Jovi-penned song used by the Red Sox in an advertising campaign infringed a similar song he'd previously written and popularized in the Boston area. After numerous court opinions (see "Songwriter: 'Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!' (I)") the court found for Defendants, holding Plaintiff's theories of copyright infringement unsustainable. In this follow-up case, Plaintiff sued some of the same parties, and some new ones, for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), alleging that the Defendants' concealed copyright infringement, removed correct copyright notice from the advertisement, and submitted false evidence to the court. As could be predicted, the court was unsympathetic. Plaintiff based his allegations on the same facts previously decided against him, and the court found his current claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Furthermore, Plaintiff simply failed to allege any acts that violated any of his rights under the DMCA. Despite the pointlessness of the lawsuit, the court, in its discretion, denied Defendants' motion for sanctions, and instead gave Plaintiff an admonition. - LSW


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7. Songwriter: "Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!" (III)
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Bon Jovi
Boston Red Sox
Individual(s)
Lawyer(s)
Major League Baseball
Music Manager(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Sports Organization(s)
TBS, Inc.
Television Producer(s)
Time Warner, Inc.
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This is the third installment in Plaintiff's litigation campaign, brought against Bon Jovi, the Boston Red Sox, Major League Baseball, TBS, Inc., and numerous other entities and individuals, in which Plaintiff alleged a Bon Jovi song about the Boston Red Sox, used by the Boston Red Sox, copied his earlier-released song about the same team. In the first suit, "Songwriter: 'Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!' (I)," the court found there was no substantial similarity between Plaintiff's song and the alleged infringement. He sued once again under the Digital Millennium Copyright act, and lost (see Songwriter: 'Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!' (II)"). In this case, Plaintiff brought suit against many of the same parties, but also included some new ones, alleging mostly identical claims. The court dismissed Plaintiff's action this time as well. The outcome would not be stayed awaiting appeal in his first suit, and the claims brought herein were so close (even if not identical) to the first suit, and the parties all could have been sued the first time around, that Plaintiff's suit was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Even if he adjusted his action slightly, it was not so different that it should not have been brought the first time. Plaintiff was not sanctioned, however, but only admonished. - LSW


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8. Reel Tight vs. Usher
Highest Court C.D. California
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Arista Records
Cox, Bryan-Michael
Dupri, Jermaine
EMI April Music
La Face Records
Music Publisher(s)
So So Def Records
Sony Music
Usher
Zomba Records
Other Reel Tight
Short Description The R&B group, Reel Tight, had a brief and dim limelight in the late 1990s, when they signed to Warren G's record label, G-Funk, an imprint of Restless Records; made guest appearances on various Warren G-related songs; and released one album in 1999. In this lawsuit, over ten years after Reel Tight's last release, one of the band's members--purportedly the band's songwriter--sued Usher, Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, and numerous other music entities, alleging Usher's song "Burn" infringed the Reel Tight jam, "No More Pain." This court opinion involved the admissibility of Plaintiff's expert witness, a musicologist, who had been retained by Plaintiff on a contingency basis. In California, as in some other states, expert witnesses whose compensation is based on the outcome of the case are barred from testifying, on the grounds that their testimony is tainted by their inherent interest in the outcome of the suit. The court found this public policy rationale applicable to the instant facts, and barred Plaintiff's expert witness. - LSW


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9. Ex-Recording Artist vs. Usher and Alicia
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Arista Records
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Dre & Vidal
Dupri, Jermaine
EMI April Music
EMI Music
Film Studio(s)
Hitco Music
Keys, Alicia
La Face Records
Music Executive(s)
Music Manager(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Songwriter(s)
Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Sony Music
Sony/ATV Music
Toby, Ryan
Universal Music
Usher
Zomba Records
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The facts of this immense lawsuit--which involves numerous defendants--are somewhat unique. Oftentimes, unknown artists sue huge companies and successful artists alleging copyright infringement, usually with little-to-no evidence that the defendants ever knew of the plaintiff or plaintiff's songs. In this case, Plaintiff was a songwriter and recording artist who signed briefly with Alicia Key's record label, a subsidiary of J Records, and began recording songs to be released. After some of the songs were finished, the record label offered to buy some of her songs for use with other artists on the label, such as Usher. Plaintiff, recognizing that the agreements would divest her of all royalty and ownership rights--she'd be a "ghost writer"--refused the deal. According to Plaintiff, Defendants nevertheless used her songs on Usher's album, "Confessions," as well as with other artists on the label's roster. Unfortunately for Plaintiff, her song, "Caught Up," which was one that Defendants wanted to use, was nothing like the Usher song of the same name. The court compared both lyrics and melody between the two songs and found that, despite Plaintiff's allegations and undeniable claims of access, the Usher song was not copied from Plaintiff's. Perhaps the phrase "caught up" was copied, but that in-and-of-itself was insufficient to comprise copyright infringement. With the sole federal claim dismissed, the court declined jurisdiction over the remaining state claims, and Plaintiff's action was disposed of entirely. - LSW


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10. Rappers Receive Enough Royalties?
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Band Member(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Robinson, Sylvia
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Sanctuary Records
Other Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five
Grand Master Melle Mel
Sugar Hill Gang
Wall Street Mob
Short Description The Sugar Hill Gang, Grand Master Flash, The Wall Street Mob, The Furious Five, and Grand Master Melle Mel, along with Sylvia Robinson, founder of Sugar Hill Records, godmother of rap music, and former member of Mickey and Sylvia, which had a few hits back in the day, sued Sanctuary Records Group for release from record contracts. After obtaining a default judgment for rescission of the contracts, Plaintiffs sought damages in the realm of $30 million, even though they'd initially only sought rescission. and damages from unpaid royalties. Artists were released from contracts after default judgment, but were awarded no damages. Both Sanctuary and the Plaintiffs appealed, the former seeking to vacate the default and the latter requesting monetary relief. After first being unsuccessful, the Court of Appeals later remanded to the District Court to reconsider their denial to vacate the default; it is the preference of the courts to resolve disputes on the merits. - LSW


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11. Who Gets Roger Miller's Rights?
Highest Court Sixth Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Family of Artist(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Defendants Sony/ATV Music
Other Miller, Roger
Short Description The wife of deceased Roger Miller sued his music publisher for royalties and was granted renewal copyright interest notwithstanding agreements between the parties. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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12. "My Contract's Bad And I'm Gonna Be in Trouble"
Highest Court New York Supreme Court
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Angels
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiffs are the Allbut sisters, the two backing vocalists for The Angels, who had a massive hit with "My Boyfriend's Back." The sisters had not received royalties for the recording (they didn't write it so publishing is unavailable) since they repudiated the exclusivity provision in their contract in the 1960s. The court here found that, at least regarding royalty payments due within the previous six years, the doctrine of laches did not bar the suit, because Defendants could not show prejudice on account of the delay. However, most other claims were barred by statutes of limitation. - LSW


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13. Get "Off My Grind," Says Plaintiff
Highest Court D. New Jersey
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Artist(s)
Defendants A&M Records
Blige, Mary J.
EMI Music
Geffen Records
Interscope Records
Jay-Z
Jerkins, Rodney "Darkchild"
Music Producer(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Universal Music
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description As in many similar lawsuits, Plaintiffs are unknown singer/songwriters whose song "On My Grind," was allegedly copied by Mary J. Blige and a long assortment of related parties (producers, record labels, publishers) in Blige's song "Enough Cryin'." Defendants initially sought to dismiss for improper service. The court held service was indeed improper, but granted Plaintiff an extension for proper service. Later, however, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, stating Plaintiff insufficiently plead personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The court held that--even though Plaintiffs appeared pro se and thus are given additional leeway, as with their service of process issues--Plaintiffs had not pointed to activities by Defendant in the forum to justify jurisdiction, not even according to the somewhat-expansive "stream of commerce" theory of liability. - LSW


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14. Marley Artist: "Don't Use My Art!"
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Visual Artist(s)
Defendants Fifty-Six Hope Road Music
Music Publisher(s)
Zion Rootswear
Other Marley, Bob
Short Description An artist who created three images of Bob Marley sued Marley's estate and other associated entities for copyright infringement, when the images were used on T-shirts and other merchandise. Plaintiff alleges an earlier licensing agreement did not grant ownership in the images, and the current uses were infringement. Despite claims that Plaintiff put off bringing a lawsuit out of respect for Marley, the court held the suit time-barred for not being brought within the statutory period. - LSW


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15. Early Member: "I Co-Wrote 'B.Y.O.B.!'"
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Former Band Member(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Other Amen
Scars on Broadway
System of a Down
Short Description Plaintiff is a former-friend of Daron Malakian (songwriter, guitarist and occasional singer for System of a Down, and singer for the band Scars on Broadway). Plaintiff has, at various times, been associated with the band Amen and with Scars on Broadway, Malakian's side project. Plaintiff was signed to record deal with Malakian's imprint of Columbia. However, their relationship broke down over time. Plaintiff now claims that he co-wrote "B.Y.O.B," with Malakian, which became a major hit for System of a Down. Malakian granted Plaintiff a 2% interest in the song, though not apparently because he felt there was a legal obligation of any kind. The court held that Plaintiff's depiction of the songwriting process was not credible, and that his contributions (which consisted essentially of a single reference to "fascist nations") were not independently copyrightable. Malakian wrote the song with System of a Down, not Plaintiff. Plaintiff is not an owner. - LSW


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16. D4L Copy Three-Note Riff?
Highest Court N.D. Georgia
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Songwriter(s)
Defendants Asylum Records
Atlantic Records
D4L
Smith, Teriyakie
Warner-Elektra-Atlantic
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The hip-hop group D4L is probably best known for their infectious hit song, "Laffy Taffy," though they've had an otherwise notable career, including the song at issue in this lawsuit, 2006's "Betcha Can't Do It Like Me." Plaintiff is a songwriter, former member of an unknown rap group called the Woodlawn Click, acting through his record label and music publisher, alleging that D4L copied his song "Come Up," which was distributed and performed around the Atlanta area and even appeared in an Atlanta-themed hip-hop movie called "Dirty South," which was never commercially released. D4L, it should be noted, are based in Atlanta. Defendants argued that they never heard the song, never saw the movie, and thus had no access. The allegedly similar melody between the two songs was written by their own producer, Teriyakie Smith, merely by playing three adjacent keys on his keyboard. Defendants were unable to exclude Plaintiff's expert musicologist, because the court found his methodology passed the "Daubert" test for expert witnesses. However, Defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted. Though D4L may have had access to Plaintiff's song, and the songs were indeed substantially similar, Defendants provided uncontroverted evidence of "independent creation." After all, in the words of Teriyakie Smith, "the keys on the [computer] keyboard were right beside each other. And that's how the tune came about." Sounds convincing. Defendants' summary judgment granted. - LSW


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17. Davy DMX Wants DMC Royalties
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Music Publisher(s)
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Warner-Chappell Music
Other Def Jam Records
DMX, Davy
Run DMC
Short Description Plaintiff is a music publisher that was assigned copyright interest in Run DMC's mid-1980s output by the band's early producer, sampling progenitor Davy DMX, who also DJ'd for Kurtis Blow and produced Lovebug Starski. Davy co-authored the eight musical compositions at issue in this suit, for which Rush Groove (the music publisher loosely-associated with Def Jam Records) owed him royalty payments. At some point prior to this suit, Rush transferred its contractual duties and interests to Defendant music publisher. Defendant refused to acknowledge Davy's interest in the compositions, and did not account to Davy for profits as the contract required Rush to do. Plaintiff brought suit, requesting a declaratory judgment of co-ownership and an accounting. Defendants counterclaimed. Unfortunately, when Davy contracted with Rush, he assigned copyright ownership to Rush, and thus only retained a royalty interest. More importantly, the agreement contained a provision releasing Defendant specifically from any lawsuits arising thereunder. In other words, Plaintiff's copyright claims were insufficient, and demands for overdue payments lay not with Defendant, but with Rush, regardless whether Defendant was then obligated to pay Plaintiff's royalties. The court granted Plaintiff leave to amend its complaint to show why the entire cause of action should not be dismissed. - LSW


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18. Pro Se Plaintiff vs. Wyclef and Jerry
Highest Court Second Circuit
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants Columbia Records
Duplessis, Jerry
Jean, Wyclef
Music Publisher(s)
Sony Music
Sony/ATV Music
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description An unknown songwriter, acting "pro se," sued Wyclef Jean (of Fugees fame) and superstar songwriter/producer Jerry Duplessis, alleging the duo copied her copyrighted song in theirs, though the courts' opinions do not explain which songs were involved. Regardless, it appears Plaintiffs' actions were quite unfounded, and the trial was a bit of a circus. The Second Circuit found no error in the trial court's judgment, including, inter alia, the correctness in denying Plaintiff the opportunity to "sing at trial the unique melodic lyrical chorus" she claimed was common between the songs, and the correctness of allowing Dr. Lawrence Ferrara, a commonly utilized expert musicologist, to testify at trial. After the holding was upheld, the Eastern District of New York granted attorneys fees to Defendants, finding that "Plaintiff's position was both factually and legally unreasonable," and that Plaintiff actually misled the court. To both compensate Defendants and deter parties like Plaintiff, the court granted $63,095.60 in fees. - LSW


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19. Songwriter: "Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!" (I)
Highest Court D. Massachusetts
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Songwriter(s)
Defendants A&E Television
Bon Jovi
Boston Red Sox
Fox Broadcasting
Individual(s)
Island Def Jam Records
Major League Baseball
Music Publisher(s)
Sony/ATV Music
TBS, Inc.
Television Producer(s)
Time Warner, Inc.
Universal Music
Universal-Polygram Music
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Just prior to the Boston Red Sox's 2004 World Series win, Plaintiff composed a song called "Man I Really Love This Team," about the Sox, that gained popularity at Fenway Park and among the team's fans. Though Plaintiff wrote a derivative song from his first, called "Man I Really Love This Town," it was not copyrighted alongside the original. After the Red Sox won the series again in 2007, television station TBS aired a commercial about the Sox, featuring a song by Bon Jovi called "I Love This Town." Plaintiff sued everyone involved in the production and airing of the commercial, alleging copyright infringement, unfair competition under the Lanham Act, and several state law claims. His copyright claims were based on what he called "temp tracking," wherein the original song is used to produce an audiovisual work (e.g. the commercial), which is then used to create a new song (e.g., the Jovi tune). Thus, the final song may not have directly copied the original song, but indirectly. The court quickly held that this sort of action could not be based in the Lanham Act and that the state claims were preempted by the Copyright Act. On Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the court found that there was no musical or lyrical similarity between Plaintiff's "I Love This Team" and Defendants' song. Since Plaintiff never copyrighted "I Love This Town," it was not considered in the court's analysis. Furthermore, Plaintiff's "temp tracking" theory did not impress the court; there was vastly more similarities between Defendants' song and the TBS promo than between Plaintiff's song and the promo. After this ruling, Plaintiff moved for an entry of default against some of Defendants who had not answered his complaint, which the court denied; not only were the defaulting parties not named in the original complaint, but default would prejudice them. This holding was denied rehearing. Plaintiff did not give up; see also "Songwriter: 'Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!' (II)" and "Songwriter: 'Jovi Sox Ripped Me Off!' (III)" - LSW


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20. Snuff Sells Songbook
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Garrett, "Snuff"
Defendants Music Publisher(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Thomas "Snuff" Garrett is successful record producer whose client list includes Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Sonny & Cher, and many others, and who is well-known for having hired Phil Spector as a producer at Liberty Records, where Snuff was on staff. In this case, Snuff and Defendant reached an agreement wherein Defendant would purchase Snuff's music publishing back catalog. The agreement had two parts: first, Defendant would purchase the bulk of his catalog for over $500,000, and, second, if Snuff was able to obtain all the appropriate rights from the songwriters for the song "Half Breed," which was a big hit in 1973 for Cher, Defendant would buy that song alone for over $300,000. However, Defendant only guaranteed it would purchase the latter song if Snuff could clear the rights within 30 days of the first transaction. After the first transaction took place, as the 30 day window was narrowing, communications between the parties led Snuff to believe the 30-day restriction had been waived, or at least momentarily extended. When Snuff tendered the cleared rights, Defendants refused to purchase. On Snuff's breach of contract claim, the court was unsympathetic. The contract clearly required him to tender "Half Breed" within 30 days. However, because Defendants' lawyers' conduct could be interpreted as waiving the requirement, the court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment, saying a jury could find Defendant was equitably estopped from enforcing the provision. Snuff's fraud claim was disposed of, however. - LSW


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