Claudette Robison opposes Smokey’s motion

July 2014



The dispute between R&B singer Smokey Robinson and his ex-wife Claudette over the copyright to some of the singer-songwriters hits which include “My Girl” and “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” has moved on. After last month’s report (from Patrick Gould) that Smokey hoped to exercise his termination rights under federal copyright law to reclaim ownership over the song  and Claudette’s claim that because the songs were written during their marriage, they are community property under California state law – and she is accordingly entitled to fifty per cent of the royalties under a 1989 divorce settlement – Smokey sued Claudette in federal court seeking declaratory judgment that he may exercise his termination rights and that Claudette cannot claim any interest under California law. Smokey’s argument is that Federal law provides that Smokey  – alone – would recapture all rights in the copyright notwithstanding any agreements to the contrary” with his motion noting “On the other hand, Defendant asserts that under California community property and contract law, she is entitled to an undivided one-half interest in any recaptured copyrights Plaintiff may acquire in the future even though the marriage between Plaintiff and Defendant ended nearly 30 years ago.” Well its settled US law that federal law will ‘trump’ state law where they clash – of there is an “irreconcilable conflict,” then “federal law preempts state law” under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. Claudette’s opposition has now been filed and this argues that her claims do no harm to legally recognized federal interests and present no preemption issues. Her legal papers place emphasis on the economic benefits of copyright, saying those are governed by state law. According to her answer, she’s not attempting to interfere with his rights under the Copyright Act. “Specifically, Ms. Robinson does not challenge Mr. Robinson’s exclusive right to decide whether to terminate prior grants,” states the opposition. “Nor does she seek to interfere with whether, or under what terms, Mr. Robinson enters into new grants for (or sells) the Community Musical Compositions, now that they have been exposed to the market and can fetch the fair value Congress legislatively made available to him. Mr. Robinson must simply honor his separate, non-preempted state law contractual obligations with his former wife of 27 years.”

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