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1. Does Madonna Owe Money?
Highest Court M.D. Louisiana
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Investor(s)
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Film Studio(s)
Madonna
Maverick Films
Music Manager(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiffs lent money to Madonna and her film company, Maverick Films, as well as various other individuals and entities associated with Madonna's film endeavors, which were in need of financing. After Defendants did not repay Plaintiffs' loans, Plaintiff sued all the parties for contract breach, unjust enrichment, detrimental reliance, unfair trade practices, and conversion. Maverick Films defaulted, and a default judgment was entered against them. (Various other procedural and evidentiary rulings were undertaken during 2009-2010, which are not discussed herein). On Madonna's and her manager's motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the court found in their favor. First, her manager had not submitted to jurisdiction by appearing at Maverick's default hearing, because he contested to jurisdiction all along. Second, there was no jurisdiction over either Madonna or her manager, neither individually nor as corporate officers. Their personal presence within Louisiana was minimal, Madonna having performed there sometime in the 1980s, and their recent contacts with the state were all within their capacities as corporate officers, which does not subject them to personal jurisdiction as individuals. Furthermore, the court would not "pierce the corporate veil" and find jurisdiction over them personally, because Plaintiff did not adequately illustrate that their corporations were mere alter egos or vehicles by which Madonna and Co. perpetuated fraud. Though a default judgment was entered against Maverick, the cause was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction as to Madonna, et. al. - LSW


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2. Lil' Wayne's Co-Author Sues
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Banner, David
Deezle
Royalty Collector(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Studio(s)
Video/DVD Distributor(s)
Other Lil' Wayne
Short Description Plaintiffs include two hip-hop songwriters and producers, David Banner and Deezle, both of whom have worked, at various times, with Dwayne Carter, better known as Lil' Wayne. This lawsuit stemmed from a concert Lil' performed to be released as a film and DVD, called "The Carter." Lil' granted to Defendants the rights to use various songs he co-authored with Plaintiffs, for reproduction in the film and associated merchandise. Plaintiffs sued, alleging Lil's company, Young Money Entertainment, had no power to grant the licenses to the songs, because it was a not a copyright co-owner; the company listed on the copyright registration was Young Money Publishing. If Young Money did not have the ability to grant a license, Defendants' film infringed Plaintiffs' rights. However, held the court, the different Young Money entities were all companies through which Lil' Wayne himself acted, and Wayne could validly grant a license if he saw fit. Thus, Defendants had valid license. While Plaintiffs were most likely owed royalties from the production, this was a not an issue in the instant suit, which alleged infringement, not royalty nonpayment. Based on the facts before the court, Defendants' summary judgment was granted. - LSW


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3. 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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4. Former Artist vs. Cash Money
Highest Court E.D. Louisiana
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs B.G.
Defendants Baby/Birdman
Cash Money Records
Film Studio(s)
Financial Professional(s)
Money Mack Music
Music Merchandiser(s)
Music Producer(s)
Slim Thug
Tour Manager(s)
Other Hot Boys
Short Description Plaintiff is B.G., member of the Hot Boys, who sued Cash Money Records and various associated parties (including the Williams Brothers, co-founders Baby/Birdman and Mannie Fresh, also of the hip-hop duo Big Tymers), who had promised to manage Plaintiff's financial affairs, including filing taxes. Plaintiff alleged he relied on Defendants' assertions and did not worry about his own finances, did not file taxes, and did not hire an attorney throughout the parties' 10-year relationship, which began while Plaintiff was still a minor. B.G. sued for various causes of action, including breach of contract, fiduciary duty, conversion, and others, requesting an accounting, rescission of agreements, preliminary injunction, damages, and more. Defendants moved the case to federal court, alleging the actions were "equivalent to copyright," and thus preempted by the Copyright Act. The District Court disagreed and granted Plaintiff's motion to remand to state court; all of Plainitff's actions were validly stated under state theories and no federal jurisdiction exists. - LSW


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