Month: August 2015

Foundation gets a say in Charles rights case

The late Ray Charles could set a concert house afire all by himself, just by sitting down and putting hands on the keys of an upright piano to bob, weave, and belt out a terrific tune. When it comes to straightening out the finances of his musical legacy, however, there soon may be enough attorneys in the court to fill the seats of a symphony orchestra. Or so it may seem after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently granted standing to The Ray Charles Foundation in a lawsuit brought by Charles’ heirs over copyright termination rights. A passel of Charles children already were tussling with a major music publisher over copyrights. So the lawyers involved will need to pull up even more chairs to confer now that the foundation’s part of the party. While Charles  composed some of the best music ever to grace the rhythm and blues charts, he lived a life of great complexity and it all has turned into some elaborate legal counterpoint that now returns for a coda for a U.S. federal court to play through. Let’s plunk through some of the disharmony in this noteworthy case … Dad’s estate pays $500,000 to each of 12 kids Charles had made an agreement with all 12 of his children that he would leave each of them $500,000 if they waived further claims to his estate. They all did....

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Charges reinstated in threatening rap case

Rap on, rappers, the First Amendment may say to creative artists in an often violent, suggestive genre. But federal and state courts are balancing interests and finding that fine line, sometimes a blurry one, between art and criminal threat. The issue recently arose for a California appellate court, which ruled that such matters should be decided by a trier of fact, not a judge. The people had their case against “Lil A,” also known as Anthony Murillo, dismissed by a trial court. A state Superior Court judge found that Murillo had engaged in protected speech in a rap, in which he made violent statements against two onetime sexual assault victims, whom he identified by first and last name. The state appellate judges considered the nature of Murillo’s lyrics and that he both named and threatened to kill the two individuals the court identified as Jane Does; both women were involved in a sexual assault case in Southern California that resulted in criminal convictions against a friend of Murillo’s. The judges said a reasonable person could find Murillo’s lyrics to be actual threats and not protected speech, and this issue should be left to the trier of fact not a judge to determine. In ruling on prosecutors’ motion to reinstate the case, the California appellate judges asked them and defense counsel to brief on potential impacts on this matter of...

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1920s book roars in ‘Happy birthday’ rights case

Blow out the candles, sweep up that wrapping paper, and most of all, consider for a moment as to whether  all those lovely money gifts will go away? The plaintiffs in a much-publicized suit say they have found new, conclusive evidence that will help them persuade a federal judge to rain on Warner/Chappell Music Inc.’s party, specifically to end its claim to hold the lucrative copyright to what be one of the world’s most performed tunes: the Happy Birthday song. The plaintiffs have filed an ex parte application to submit new evidence that they assert Warner “mistakenly” had failed to hand over during discovery. Based on this trove of historic material, they also have sought summary judgment to halt Warner’s copyright claims and reports say a decision may come very soon. As the world awaits U.S. District Judge George King’s ruling on these matters in Los Angeles, let’s unwrap what may become a most unhappy matter for music publishing powerhouse. Two years ago, this blog and many others covered the copyright case that captured global attention because it asked,  Does Warner-Chappell really hold a valid copyright on  the birthday tune? Warner said it had such rights, without a doubt, when filmmaker Jennifer Nelson sought to make a documentary on the tune’s history. Because her film would include a scene in which the song is performed, she and her production company sought permission for its rights...

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1920s book roars in ‘Happy birthday’ rights case

Blow out the candles, sweep up that wrapping paper, and most of all, consider for a moment as to whether  all those lovely money gifts will go away? The plaintiffs in a much-publicized suit say they have found new, conclusive evidence that will help them persuade a federal judge to rain on Warner/Chappell Music Inc.’s party, specifically to end its claim to hold the lucrative copyright to what be one of the world’s most performed tunes: the Happy Birthday song. The plaintiffs have filed an ex parte application to submit new evidence that they assert Warner “mistakenly” had failed to hand over during discovery. Based on this trove of historic material, they also have sought summary judgment to halt Warner’s copyright claims and reports say a decision may come very soon. As the world awaits U.S. District Judge George King’s ruling on these matters in Los Angeles, let’s unwrap what may become a most unhappy matter for music publishing powerhouse. Two years ago, this blog and many others covered the copyright case that captured global attention because it asked,  Does Warner-Chappell really hold a valid copyright on  the birthday tune? Warner said it had such rights, without a doubt, when filmmaker Jennifer Nelson sought to make a documentary on the tune’s history. Because her film would include a scene in which the song is performed, she and her production company sought permission for its rights...

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