Stone Temple Pilots Trademark and Band Dispute

The three remaining original band members of the Stone Temple Pilots sued expelled member Scott Weiland in May 2013 claiming breach of their written partnership agreement, breach of fiduciary duty and trademark infringement. Weiland was voted out of the group in February 2013.  The four group members operated under a written band partnership that allows a partner to be ousted  for numerous reasons, including not making the band a top priority.  The complaint provides a look at the various ways in which Weiland was not putting the band first and how he was subsequently "sabotaging" the band's tour and new album release.

Weiland subsequently contersued the band accusing the members of  conspiracy to oust him and demanding the band/partnership be dissolved.

There are four federal trademark registrations for STONE TEMPLE PILOTS owned in the name of the Stone Temple Pilots partnership and listing the four original partners, including Weiland, as the partners.  Might we see some issues at the USPTO regarding those registrations and who is the proper party to maintain ownership?

Here's the Complaint filed by the Stone Temple Pilots vs Weiland.

More to come as this case progresses.  We always love a good band name dispute.

BMG Rights Management Music Publishing Catalog Acquistions

BMG Rights Management, formed in 2008 and jointly owned by Bertelsmann AG and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., spent 2010 acquiring one high-profile music publishing catalog after another.  Since its founding, BMG Rights has inked more than 400 publishing deals, with at least 10 news-worth acquisitions  in 2010 and two already in 2011.    Some of the acquired catalogs were  owned and operated as large corporate conglomerates.  But, for  some songwriters there may be an adjustment from the small indie publisher "personal relationship" to working with a multi-billion dollar corporation. With the assistance of my legal intern Abby Kweller, I will outline over the course of several blogs posts  the various acquisitions made by BMG Rights Management in 2010 and 2011. You can read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Cherry Lane Music Publishing Co. Inc. (March 2010)

BMG Rights Management  started 2010  with the acquisition of  Cherry Lane Music in the first quarter.  The Cherry Lane Music catalog includes hits written by the Black Eyed Peas, John Denver, Elvis Presley, John Legend and Quincy Jones.

This acquisition brought the number of song copyrights owned by BMG Rights Management to more than 140,000.  The estimated purchase price was between $85 and $100 million.

Cherry Lane Music has both a substantial legacy/back catalog as well as active/current songwriters that continue to add new hits to the catalog.

Adage IV (June 2010)

In June 2010, Cherry Lane Music added classic songs “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” “Stay,” and “Little Darling” to its holdings as part of the acquisition of Adage IV Music.  Adage IV was established as a music publisher that acquires legacy, time-tested song copyrights.   Cherry Lane Music picked up an additional 500 song titles from Adage IV, bringing the catalog closer to the 150,000 title mark.

Stage Three Music (July 2010)

On July 15, 2010, BMG announced its third 2010 acquisition of leading independent publishing company Stage Three Music.  Stage Three Music acquired the rights to catalogs they believed to contain classic songs.  Hits from Aerosmith, David Essex, Macy Gray, Rascal Flats, and ZZ Top are some of the 39 artists and 29 writers that Stage Three controlled.  Stage Three’s held the rights to over 18,000 titles, so this acquisition brought BMG’s catalog up to approximately 168,000 titles. During the time of this acquisition, Executives believed this deal gave rise to BMG ranking fifth in terms of worldwide-music-publishing market share.  The purchase price of the deal was not disclosed.

Be on the look-out for additional blog posts summarizing the transactions.

Music Publishers Not Owed Royalty Says Canadian Court

A Canadian Appeals Court ruled that 30-second samples of songs on download websites are not "performances" and are exempt from public performance royalties in Canada. Read more from Billboard.

Are the US performance rights organizations BMI, ASCAP and SESAC ready to test the waters in the US to see if "previews" available on iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody meet the standard of a "public performance" under the US Copyright Act?

LucasFilm Sues for Infringment of Star Wars Toys

Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Lucasfilm Entertainment Company, Ltd.  filed a  lawsuit against EZ2Fly, Inc., et. al for the manufacture and distribution of unauthorized merchandise that are remarkable similar to authorized STAR WARS branded toys. Lucas alleges EZ2FLY  advertised and sold a replica of the STAR WARS X-WING STARFIGHTER online and at trade shows, titled as "X-WING."  The plaintiffs also allege the  STAR WARS theme music was played in connection with advertising for the products.

The complaint, filed April 8, 2010, in the Central District of California, alleges copyright infringement, false designation of origin and false description, trademark infringement, state common law trademark infringement, and unfair competition, among other claims.

Music Paralegal Katherine Stimson Speaks at 2010 MEIEA Conference

Music paralegal Katherine Stimson is speaking March 27 at the 2010 MEIEA Conference at the University of Miami. Katherine, a music paralegal with the Bennett Law Office, is a panelist on, "Make New Friends While Keeping the Old: Climbing the Social Ladder Without Alienating Your Audience."  The focus is creating a social media movement, not campaign, that builds the artist's relationship with their audience.

Fellow panelists include:  Taylor Vick, eMarketing Manager, Naxos of America, Inc.; Janet Hagan, E-commerce Marketing Manager at Naxos of America, Inc.; Tony Groticelli, President, TOGA Entertainment; Fran Vincent, author and founder / president of Retro Island Productions, Inc.

MEIEA is the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association, an international organization that brings together leaders of the entertainment industry with educators and students.  More information about the 2010 annual conference can be found here.

Love Music? Support Grammy Foundation & MusiCares

If music impacts your life, consider supporting one of two wonderful charitable organizations:  Grammy Foundation or MusiCares.

I am honored to co-captain for the Texas Chapter of The Grammy's the 2010 Giving Campaign.

Do you know...

... a talented student whose school's music budget has been cut? ... a music professional who doesn't have health insurance and is facing eviction? ... a music archive in peril of being lost for lack of preservation funds?

MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation work to solve these issues every day. Now you can help.

Join "Giving 2010," the first annual GRAMMY Charities Grassroots Giving Campaign — April 1 through May 15.

Make your own donation — no matter what size — to MusiCares and/or the GRAMMY Foundation. Or help raise money from friends who share your love of music.

  • Ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts.
  • Use your social networks to engage others in the cause.
  • Share your tip jar for the duration of the campaign.

Everyone has a part to play. Because No One Should Have To Go Solo.

Music Makers Mixer at NX35 March 11; Denton Texas


Hosted by The Recording Academy® Texas Chapter Board Members March 11, 4pm-6pm Dan's Silverleaf 103 Industrial Street, Denton, TX 76201 No Cover / No Wristband

More information and RSVP here:

Kick off NX35 2010 networking with the people who make music happen in Denton and the DFW area. Music Makers Mixers are held several times a year around the Denton/Dallas/Fort Worth area as networking opportunities for music biz professionals including artists, producers, engineers, songwriters, attorneys, accountants, managers, booking agents and members of The Recording Academy® Texas Chapter(the "Grammy®" folks).

Hosted by The Recording Academy® Texas Chapter Board of Governors: Chris Bell, GRAMMY® Nominated Engineer; Tamera Bennett, Bennett Law Office/Farm to Market Music; Monique Headley, Launch Media & Entertainment; Paul Levatino, PL Presents/Erykah Badu; Paul Middleton, Palmyra Studios; Chuck Rainey, GRAMMY® Award-Winning Artist.

More than 20,000 fans are expected to attend the four-day NX35 music conference, which will include performances by the Flaming Lips (FREE outdoor performance), Midlake, The Black Angels and Neon Indian. Other big attractions include a discussion with producer / musician / journalist Steve Albini and the grand opening of a museum honoring the history of the 8-track tape.

More information on the Mixer and to RSVP click:

Really, All The Good Band Names Are Taken?

The Wall Street Journal blog today has a fun and informative blog post about how hard it is for bands to come up with names and the trademark issues that often arise with confusingly similar band names. Two of my favorite band names that never made it outside of the Nashville music publishing office I worked in:

Two Gentiles and a Jew.  Actually pretty descriptive of the trio.

A Lover and a Fool. This duet had a birthday on Valentine's day and a birthday on April Fool's Day.

Roger Miller Estate Continues Battle Over Copyright Renewals

For years, the estate of Roger Miller has battled with Sony Music over the ownership of the copyright in songs written by Miller in 1964.  In 1964 Miller was under contract with Tree Publishing, which eventually became part of Sony Music.  Pursuant to his exclusive songwriter agreement, Tree owned the copyright for the initial 28 year term and for the 28 year renewal term in the songs Miller wrote. The renewal provisions under the 1909 U.S. Copyright Act were created to give songwriters, authors (other creators) the ability to recapture rights for their family that  they may have transferred away.  That all sounds clear. But interpretation of this code section (17 U.S.C. 304) in relationship to what happens if the songwriter dies during the 28th year, prior to the renewal term starting in the 29th year, has been difficult and the Roger Miller estate is in the thick of the issue.

Miller died in 1992, the 28th year after writing songs such as "King of the Road" and "Dang Me."  The question pending, does Sony own the renewal copyright because they filed a renewal application in the 28th year prior to Mr. Miller's death or do Miller's heirs own the renewal copyright because he died prior to the commencement of the 29th year.

For recent discussions review this article in The Tennessean.

William Patry has a legal discussion here and more information from the Harvard Info/Law blog here.

Is The Post Office In The Music Business?

by Tamera H. Bennett The U.S. Postal Service teamed up with Concord Music Group and released a 13 track CD of holiday tunes that are distributed exclusively at Post Offices and via the USPS website.

The album charted at Number 3 on the Billboard album chart on its first week in the stores.  USPS purchased 170,000 units from Concord and 12,000 sold at retail the first week available.

Concord released a "Charlie Brown Christmas" compilation with the USPS three years ago.  Many of Concord's releases are currently sold via their relationship with Starbucks.

Great article here about the project.

Kudos to my paralegal Katherine Stimson for "spying" the CD's at the Post Office and researching the history.

Will The Music Industry Develop A "Got Milk?" Campaign?

by Tamera H. Bennett When will the music industry develop a "Got Milk?" style campaign to educate consumers on illegal downloads?

I presented that question at the International Esq, / Variety sponsored Media and Entertainment Law Series panel discussion in Beverly Hills on November 19, 2009.

I was somewhat surprised that the majority of my co-panelists, both from the tech industry and music industry, felt that anti-piracy education was ineffective in deterring music piracy.

After talking with panelists and attendees following the event, I believe the real distinction is between education and enforcement.  The RIAA's actions in suing end-users was an unsuccessful campaign in stopping piracy. The RIAA claims it was successful as an education tool because "Awareness of the illegality of downloading without permission surged from 35 - 72 percent" during the end-user lawsuit campaign.  Most in the industry, and consumers of music, would probably argue that enforcement is an not an effective method of education.

I guess I look at things at the most basic level. I understand education will not stop music piracy.  Yet, it is a valuable tool in the tool box that should not be overlooked.

Both the software industry and the movie industry have embraced anti-piracy [youtube=]education.  The Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) has re-worked and "spoofed" their own 1980's video on anti-piracy with the new 2009  "Don't Copy That 2."  For the last few years, the Motion Picture Association of America in conjunction with Students In Free Enterprise has sponsored a national college campaign for submissions of anti-piracy videos.

As I stated above, education is not the solution to stopping illegal downloads -- it is part of the tool box.  There is a certain level of music piracy that will always exisit as a "cost of doing  business."  The industry is on the right path of meeting consumers' demads for music that is portable between devices and easy to access.  Consumers want an experience and connection with their favorite music and recording artists. Labels and artists are beginning to deliver that much demanded "digital" consumer experience.  Deliverying the consumer experience is the most powerful tool in the tool box.

Entertainment Law Update Podcast Episode 6


by Tamera H. Bennett Once again, my thanks to entertainment attorney Gordon Firemark for asking me to co-host the Entertainment Law Update Podcast.  Episode 6 is available for downloading here. Make sure to take a look at the show notes, which I have summarized below.

  • Noonan v. Staples -  Jury: Truthful E-Mail Sent About Fired Staples Manager Wasn’t Libelous
  • Disney settles with Luxo over the Luxo Jr. Lamp
  • Carly Simon is suing her record label & starbucks over poor marketing of record
  • FTC New Guidelines For Bloggers
  • Vent v. Mars Snackfood U.S., LLC -- idea submission case in New Jersey
  • The Weinstein Co. v. Smokewood Entertainment: Decision reached in “Push” case regarding writing required to transfer exclusive rights.
  • Jon Gosselin has countersued TLC
  • California’s new anti-paparazzi statute
  • Beatles music catalog finally available online.. but is it legal?
  • Radio Station liable for wrongful death of contestant
  • ASCAP lost Public Performance lawsuit on ringtunes; ASCAP and BMI may bring case for Public Performance in film/tv downloads
  • Copyright Termination of Transfers under §203 and §304.
  • Celebrity Identity Theft with guest Samantha Rothaus.