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1. Sammy Davis, Jr.'s Legacy
Highest Court N.D. Texas
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Estate of Artist(s)
Financial Institution(s)
Spouse of Artist(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Financial Professional(s)
Other Davis, Sammy (Jr.)
Short Description Sammy Davis, Jr., was undoubtedly one of the most iconic musical stars of the twentieth century, and his death left behind piles of money, royalties, and assorted enforceable rights for his family. After his death, Sammy's wife, Altovise, formed a corporation with Defendants, including a financial institution and its named owner, to handle the royalty income, publicity rights, etc., for the deceased star. In forming their corporation, the parties agreed that Altovise would transfer her interests to the new corporation, but that after five years she would be given the assets back in return for a payment of $1. After the time limit was reached and she tendered the required payment, Defendants refused to remit the properties and interests to Plaintiffs, which include Altovise's estate and assorted corporate and financial entities. Defendants argued that Plaintiffs could not enforce the terms of the agreements because Altovise had previously materially breached the contract by withholding royalties. The court denied Plaintiffs' motion to strike statements made by various Defendants, which were relevant to Defendants' equitable defenses. However, on Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction preventing Defendants from continuing to exploit the contested assets while withholding payment to Plaintiffs, the court found that Defendants were indeed spending money belonging to the corporation, not paying Plaintiffs their 1/3 interest in the corporation's profits, and publicly declaring that Defendants owned all the corporation's assets. Defendants were enjoined from spending any more money or writing checks to anyone other than the court, from holding themselves out as owners of the assets, from selling or transferring shares in the company to anyone other than Plaintiff (or anyone at all). - LSW


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2. Songwriter's Royalties in a Bind
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Financial Institution(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Pullman, David
Other Page, Gene
Short Description This lawsuit is one of several over the last few years involving the financial transaction of David Pullman, a somewhat well-known figure in the music industry for his role in creating so-called "Bowie Bonds," named after David Bowie, the artist who first used them. Bowie Bonds are investment vehicles wherein purchasers buy debt from recording artists, to be repaid, with interest, through royalty payments owed to the artist. This lawsuit appears to involve this same sort of transaction regarding the royalty interests of songwriter Gene Page. Page's family took loans from Plaintiff, a financial company that loans money to artists to be repaid from royalties, but was also involved, to some extent, with Pullman and his entities. Pullman's parties offered to investigate some suspect financial transactions between Plaintiff and Page's family, including a loan to a family member of Plaintiff's owners, and Plaintiff assigned to Pullman the rights to do so. After Pullman brought suit against Plaintiffs for numerous causes of action, including conversion, fraud, interference, civil conspiracy, and numerous equitable actions not specifically listed in this entry, Plaintiff sought to enforce an arbitration agreement contained in one, and only one, of the many loan agreements between Plaintiff and the Pages. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) found the arbitration agreement enforceable, and the parties submitted to arbitration, which ended in Pullman/Page's favor for over $1/2 million. This lawsuit was brought by Plaintiff to vacate the arbitration award, alleging no court of law ever found the agreement binding. Though the AAA had upheld the provision, the court agreed and concluded that no court of law had upheld it, and thus the arbitration was not binding. If a party objects to arbitration, the resulting award cannot be binding absent a judicial determination. The award was vacated, and a court must now determine whether arbitration is mandatory. - LSW


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3. Film About Elvis Infringe El's Rights?
Highest Court Ninth Circuit
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Copyright Owner(s)
Elvis Presley Enterprises
Financial Institution(s)
Leiber & Stoller
Photographer(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Individual(s)
Other Presley, Elvis
Short Description The Defendant produced a 16-hour video about Elvis' life. As part of the video, it included selections from The Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis 1968 Comeback, and The Steve Allen Show. Also, the Plaintiff owned the copyright to some of Elvis' music. The Court noted that Elvis' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is licensed at $10,000 a minute. In the video, a narrator would sometimes overdub the copyrighted footage, which accounted for about 10% of the movie. The footage also played with the original audio. There was no question the Defendant knew it did not have license for the material; the copyright holder refused the Defendant's request because it was preparing it own video. The Plaintiffs' moved for a preliminary injunction, which was granted. On appeal, the Court was looking only for blatantly incorrect legal or factual conclusions by the trial court. The Court found that the Plaintiffs brought the suit promptly after determining what the video actually depicted. The Plaintiffs would likely have been barred from bringing suit before they knew the content under a theory called prior restraint. The only issue before the Court was whether the Plaintiffs had a probability at succeeding at showing the Defendant did not engage in fair use. Fair use is not copyright infringement based upon an analysis of factors, such as, the purpose of the use, whether commercial or not; the nature of the use; the amount of the portion used in relation to the whole of the copyrighted work; and the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work. For the first factor, the commercial nature of the video weighs against fair use, but by using the clips in a new work, the Defendant may have transformed the work into a new creation. The clips were not consistently transformed, and in fact, the video was made to profit commercially from the clips - this wasn't a history lesson. For the nature of the work, the video and music used were creative, but because of Elvis' life, they also possessed a newsworthy perspective. The Court found the news aspect overwhelmed by the creative nature. The Court next found that the length and repetitious nature of the clips' usage favored the Plaintiffs. Even where only short portions were used, the Court found that those brief seconds were the "heart of the work" and what gave the images their value. Last, the Defendant's video would effect the market for the copyrighted materials because of their commercial nature and lack of transformation. While the last factor did not weight strongly for either side, the other factors favored the Plaintiffs, so the injunction was upheld. In dissent, one Judge found that the district court made too many factual errors concerning the transformative nature of the work. In the dissent, the Judge criticized the court's wholesale adoption of fact findings prepared by the Plaintiff. - JMC


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4. James Brown Bonds?
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Brown, James
Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Pullman, David
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This lawsuit involves an obscure little investment vehicle known as a "Pullman Bond," though it is probably better known as a "Bowie Bond," named after David Bowie, the pop star that first utilized it. In the late 1990s, Bowie issued asset-backed securities of revenues generated by his pre-1990 albums, offering an interest rate of 7.9%, to be paid out of royalties from those albums. Bowie cashed in $55 million from the deal, though he forfeited 10 years worth of royalties (the life of the bonds). This lawsuit does not involve Bowie, but James Brown, who used a similar process in securing a $26 million loan from Defendant, the Pullman Group for which the Pullman Bond is known, shortly after Bowie's deal was finished. Brown pledged future revenue in exchange for the $26 million loan, but also promised Pullman, in writing, that he would refinance the assets "upon future recoupment of the securities" with Pullman alone. When Brown tried refinancing through a third party, Pullman sent a notice to that company, as well as Brown and his entities. The refinancing transaction broke down, and Brown sued for declaratory judgment of non-breach and for interference with business relationships. Pullman counterclaimed for declaratory judgment and breach of contract. The definition of "recoupment," as intended by the parties, determined whether there was a breach. Brown's claims for interference with business were dismissed, since Pullman's letter was only intended to explain its financial interest. So was Pullman's action for breach, since the refinancing, if it were a breach, was never consummated. Furthermore, a declaration of breach or non-breach is pointless, because the refinancing was abandoned. - LSW


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5. Composer's Property Troubles
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2006
Plaintiffs Financial Institution(s)
Defendants Wolf, Peter
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Defendant is Peter Wolf, an Austrian composer/producer (not the lead singer for the J. Geils Band), who, despite being rather unknown in the United States, received upwards of $250,000 annually in royalties from European sales. After Wolf received loans from Plaintiff bank for construction of an Austrian home and recording studio, he relocated to Los Angeles, CA, and ceased paying his dues abroad. Plaintff sued in California and Wolf tried to dismiss the case, citing the doctrine of "forum non conveniens" (i.e. the forum was inconvenient), saying that all witnesses were in Austria, documents were written in German, and Austrian law applied to the suit. Though the trial court agreed, the appellate court reversed, saying that, while the Austria was a proper forum, California was not so inconvenient as to warrant dismissal. All of Wolf's assets were in the state, Wolf lived there, and even if Plaintiff were to obtain an Austrian judgment, it would need to be enforced in California through a separate suit anyway. Dismissal reversed. - LSW


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6. Canceled TLC Gig Leads to Court
Highest Court S.D. Florida
Year Ended 2003
Plaintiffs Music Promoter(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Other TLC
Short Description Complicated proceeding between parties involved in TLC concert after band failed to perform, parties lost money, etc... - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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7. Rob Base Did Something
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 1998
Plaintiffs Financial Institution(s)
Defendants Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description The opinion is too small to determine anything too specific, but this particular opinion involves the foreclosing Bank's motion to vacate a previous default judgment within the allowed time period in order to seek a judgment on the merits. Granted. - LSW


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8. New Ager Stuck Between Two Labels
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1993
Plaintiffs Record Label(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Individual(s)
Music Publisher(s)
Record Label(s)
Other Winter, Paul
Short Description The Plaintiff brought Copyright and RICO actions on behalf of its clients who were new age musicians. The Defendants included the businesses and persons associated with the business contracted to make and distribute records. One defendant was Ambassador, a commercial finance factoring company. Shortly after entering the deal, the manufacturer had financial problems. The Plaintiff terminated the deal because the manufacturer was not paying it royalties. Ambassador wound up reselling the manufacturer's stock and business to another company, PMG. Later, PMG and the Plaintiffs tried to come to a new licensing agreement, but negotiations fell apart after the Plaintiffs claimed PMG threatened to dump the records on the market. The Court found there to be no claim under the Copyright Act. The Court followed a multi-factor test. First, the Plaintiff must show that the infringement isn't more than just tangential to the overall copyright claim. in this case, there was no theft or illegal copying, as the manufacturer ceased pressing records after the deal fell apart. Rather, the question was which party assumed the license, which is solely a contract matter. Even looking at the next parts of the test, the Court found that examining failure to market and failure to pay royalties was tied to the breach of the manufacturing contract. The Court easily disposed of the RICO claims because there was no evidence to show that the Defendants committed mail fraud, a predicate act toward showing the fraudulent scheme. The Court also dismissed the claim that transporting the actual records by Ambassador to PMG constituted interstate transport of stolen goods. The records, themselves, always belonged to the manufacturer. - JMC


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9. Joplin Money Trapped in Financial Ditch
Highest Court District Court of Appeal of Florida
Year Ended 1985
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Other Estate of Artist(s)
Joplin, Scott
Short Description Lawyers for Mary Wormley, heiress to Joplin's estate, apparently had certificates of deposit in her interest, held by Defendant financial institution, which were found subject to garnishment by Plaintiff debtors, despite not being either Defendant's or the lawyers' money (it was Worley's). Wormley is not a party to this lawsuit, but concurrence says her lawyers could be held liable for malpractice. - LSW (ed. - JMC)


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10. Bank vs. ABC Records and Isaac Hayes
Highest Court W.D. Tennessee
Year Ended 1979
Plaintiffs Financial Institution(s)
Defendants ABC Records
ABC, Inc.
ABC/Dunhill Music
Other Hayes, Isaac
Short Description In a suit between Isaac Hayes and various parties, the Defendant record label sought to deny Hayes' discovery requests, claiming attorney-client privilege for the documents. The case deals with civil procedure issues. The Defendant, based in New York, argued that the documents should be governed under Tennessee law. The Plaintiff claimed California law should apply since the communications took place there. California also had a more narrow interpretation of the privilege. Federal law changed radically during the time this case occurred, however, the general principle applied that federal cases generally use the law of the state where the claim arose. When dealing with conflicts, the Court found that Tennessee law would apply. Finding that Tennessee courts had not expressly decided the issue, the federal judge then examined the various tests used to find if a corporation can assert an attorney-client privilege. The court decided that a five-factor test would probably be the one adopted in Tennessee, remanding the case to have the test applied to the facts at hand. - JMC


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11. Hammerstein Sr.'s Messy Divorce
Highest Court New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Year Ended 1913
Plaintiffs Hammerstein, Oscar (1st)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description As part of his divorce with his wife Malvina Hammerstein, Oscar Hammerstein agreed to pay to her $200/week in lieu of alimony, and further agreed to pay her daughters $100/week after her death. As security for these payments, Oscar Hammerstein transferred certain shares of stock to a trustee. After his wife's death, he sought to recovery that stock. Unfortunately for Mr. Hammerstein, the court held that he could not have access to the stock. - SKR


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