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1. Co-Writer Wants Recognition
Highest Court E.D. Missouri
Year Ended 2002
Plaintiffs Johnson, Johnnie
Defendants Berry, Chuck
Music Publisher(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Keyboardist for Chuck Berry's band, Johnnie Johnson, sued for copyright infringement and claimed partial writing credit for some of Berry's biggest hits. The court ruled that Plaintiff's action was time-barred, despite Plaintiff's argument that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until shortly before he filed his complaint when he just realized, due to his lack of legal competence (e.g. years and years of chronic alcoholism), that he had a cause of action at all. Rock legends like Keith Richards and Little Richard had previously told Johnson of his likely co-ownership (which the court assumed he would have legally had), and that put him on notice long before filing his complaint, whether he'd been drunk or not. Johnson is the subject of the documentary "Johnnie Be Good." - LSW & SKR

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2. Disabled Bassist Wants Aid
Highest Court Fifth Circuit
Year Ended 1987
Plaintiffs Back-Up Musician(s)
Defendants Federal Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Berry, Chuck
Hampton, Lionel
Otis, Johnny
Short Description An unfortunate story of a once-successful musician, who had previously bass for Chuck Berry, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Otis, and others, but whose life descended into a state of despair. After losing his hearing and thus being unable to perform music, Plaintiff was a government employee until terminated for absenteeism. He sued for disability benefits, but was ineligible since he hadn't worked the job the required period. - LSW

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3. No License for "Grafitti" Soundtrack
Highest Court D. New Jersey
Year Ended 1983
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Defendants Lucasfilm
MCA Records
Universal Studios
Other Berry, Chuck
Chess Records
Janus Records
Short Description Like many cases of the late 1970s and early 1980s, this case asked whether licenses granted by record companies to film companies before the "home viewing" era covered reproductions of those films on video discs and cassettes. The court, as with many others, found the original license contained a broad grant for use with "any means or methods now or hereafter known," which obviously includes VHS and Laserdisc. - LSW

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4. Chuck Berry is a Pimp, Literally
Highest Court Eighth Circuit
Year Ended 1959
Plaintiffs Federal Prosecutor(s)
Defendants Berry, Chuck
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Chuck Berry was charged under a federal sex trafficking statute for bringing a 14-year-old Apache prostitute from El Paso, Texas, to work at his night club in St. Louis, Missouri. Berry was found guilty by a jury at trial, but appealed, arguing that the trial was unfair based on the conduct and remarks made by the trial judge. Because of the disparaging and racist nature of the remarks made by the trial judge, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held in favor of Berry and awarded him a new trial before a new and impartial judge. - SKR

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