Burbank High School runs a music program that reportedly provided the inspiration for the hit TV show, Glee. It is nationally known for the competitive show choirs its students participate in as part of the program. To defray the costs of fielding several choirs, a non-profit booster club was formed to help fundraise for the music education program. The booster club puts on a couple of annual fundraising shows, Burbank Blast and Pop, which include both the Burbank High School choirs as well as a number of other competitive choirs. The choirs’ music director serves as the liaison between the school’s choirs and the booster club.

The music director hired an arranger to create custom sheet music for two shows to be performed at the fundraisers: Rainmaker and 80’s Movie Montage. In creating these performances, the arranger used snippets from the following songs: Magic (originally performed by Olivia Newton John) and (I’ve Had the) Time of My Life (by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes) as well as Hotel California and Don’t Phunk with my Heart. After several performances, Tresona Multimedia, LLC, sued the music director, the booster club and parent-members of the booster club for copyright infringement. Tresona Multimedia alleged that it owned the copyrights to the above songs and that its copyright interests were infringed upon because no licenses were obtained to allow the use of the above songs in the performances.
Continue Reading Burbank High School Jumps with Glee over Copyright Victory

Lil Nas X broke onto the scene in spectacular fashion when he released the viral sensation “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. Old Town Road broke the prior record for most consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and eventually resulted in Lil Nas X receiving a Grammy award. Unfortunately, fortune and fame comes with its share of problems.

Lil Nas X was sued by producers Don Lee and Glen Keith (the “Producers”) in October 2019 for allegedly infringing their copyrighted material with his track “Rodeo.” According to the Producers, Rodeo bears a substantial similarity to their 2017 song “GwenXdonlee4-142[,]” which was subsequently incorporated into a song called “Broad Day” by PuertoReefa and Sakrite Duexe. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that there are substantial similarities between the chord progression, use of instruments, drumbeats, and other protectable characteristics from “GwenXdonlee4-142” and “Broad Day.” According to the Producers, the song was widely distributed in locations including Lil Nas X’s
Continue Reading Lil Nas X Takes His Horse to the Old Town Road and Moves to Dismiss Producers’ Copyright Infringement Action Concerning “Rodeo”

Recently, Eagles Ltd. (the “Eagles”), the entity in control of legendary rock band The Eagles’ business affairs, filed a lawsuit against Hotel California Baja, LLC for trademark infringement. While I’m sure most of us are familiar with the Eagles’ song Hotel California, it may come as a surprise to most trademark aficionados that the Eagles

Since his death in 1981, reggae superstar Bob Marley and his “image” continue to be broadly popular and command millions of dollars each year in merchandising revenue. His children own an entity called Fifth Six Hope Road, Music, Ltd. which was formed to acquire and exploit the assets, rights and commercial interests of their late father. In 1999, Hope Road granted Zion Rootswear, LLC, an exclusive license with regard to the use of Bob Marley’s image on various clothing and other merchandise.

After discovering that several companies had been selling t-shirts and other merchandise with the image of Bob Marley on them, Hope Road and Zion brought a lawsuit against them and included a claim for “false endorsement” under 15 USC §1125(a). (This article does not address the other claims pursued in this lawsuit.)

After trial, a jury found that the Defendants were liable under a false endorsement theory and awarded Plaintiffs almost $800,000 in damages plus their attorney’s fees of approximately $1.5 million. The Defendants appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit arguing that there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding against them and that Plaintiffs’ use of the false endorsement claim under 15 USC §1125 effectively created a federal “right of privacy,” which Congress had not intended.
Continue Reading Bob Marley and Federal False Endorsement Claims

By James Kachmar

The great reggae musician Bob Marley passed away more than 30 years ago. Nevertheless, litigation surrounding his music legacy continues on. The Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion in Rock River Communications, Inc. v. Universal Music Group, Inc. that dealt again with the issue of who owns the rights to Mr. Marley’s music. 

Rock River is a producer and distributor of music records. In 2006, it entered into a licensing agreement with San Juan Music Group that granted it a non-exclusive license to “sample” 16 musical recordings performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers. San Juan has been licensing Mr. Marley’s music since 1980 through an agreement with a producer of Mr. Marley’s early recordings, Lee Perry. 

Rock River made a series of remixes based on the recordings it had licensed from San Juan and created an album titled, “Roots, Rock, Remixed.” Rock River intended to sell the album on iTunes, distribute it in record stores, and also had plans to allow the use of one of its recordings in the film “Dear John”.   Rock River was unaware that any entity had disputed San Juan’s right to license Mr. Marley’s early recordings.


Continue Reading Roots, Reggae, Remixes – and Litigation