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First off today, Colton Lochhead at the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit against Frankie Vallie and Robert Gaudio, two members of the band the Four Seasons over the popular musical Jersey Boys.
The lawsuit was filed by Donna Corbello, the widow of Rex Woodard, who ghostwrote a biography of another Four Seasons member Thomas Devito. That biography went on to become the basis for Jersey Boys, which went on to become a mammoth success. However, Corbello sued alleging that the musical was a derivative work based on the biography but the band alleged that Devito licensed his biography to them and that the play is not an infringement.
In the district court, after examining the 1999 agreement between Devito and Woodard, the court ruled that Devito had not unlawfully transferred copyright interest in the book and, instead, only licensed his “biography”. However, the appeals court ruled that Devito essentially made two promises of exclusivity, one to Woodard and one to his bandmates. Since a co-copyright holder can not enter into an exclusive agreement without all parties agreement, that could make the musical an infringement. The case now heads back to the lower court.
Next up today, Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter Esquire reports that the New York judge in the SiriusXM case over pre-1972 sound recordings has granted an interlocutory appeal giving them the chance to have the 2nd Circuit Court of appeals to hear the case before it moves to a potential trial.
The case began in 2013 when Flo & Eddie of The Turtles sued SiriusXM saying that the satellite radio operator was not paying royalties for their music. However, since pre-1972 sound recordings do not fall under federal copyright protection, they are protected by state laws and Sirius argued that there was no obligation to pay royalties for a performance under those rules. However, judges in New York and California have disagreed, finding for the plaintiffs, denying summary judgment to the defendants.
Now the New York judge is allowing Sirius to take the matter up to the 2nd Circuit. While their decision will not directly impact the other lawsuits filed by the band, it’s the first time an appeals court has taken up the issue of performance rights of pre-1972 music, making this a closely-watched case.
Finally today, Marc Schneider at Billboard reports that the multi-channel network (MCN) Machinima has filed a lawsuit against the company Freeplay Music, alleging that the company, which primarily licenses background music intended for videos, is reeling customers in the with the promise of free music only to turn around and demand license fees for its use.
The lawsuit is similar to another one filed by Collective Digital Studio, another MCN on YouTube. Both networks cover thousands of channels and millions of subscribers.
Freeplay began in 2001 as a company to license production music for various purposes. In 2013 the company entered into an agreement with YouTube to provide free background music. However, that agreement only extends to personal use videos, not commercial ones. Despite warnings, both CDS and Machinima claim that the free music is a bait and switch, used to trap people into committing copyright infringement.
That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.