New defence filed in Paul’s Boutique claim

July 2014

Sound recording, music publishing


More Beastie Boys! In September 2013 a US  judge declined to dismiss TufAmerica’s complaint against the Beastie Boys and their label, finding that the Beasties’ use of the Trouble Funk songs, “Say What” and “Let’s Get Small,” on the 1989 “Paul’s Boutique” album was qualitatively and quantitatively significant. The case continues, but summary judgment motions delivered this week by the Beastie Boys, Universal-Polygram and Capitol Records present a rather compelling argument why the lawsuit is doomed. TufAmerica no longer control the copyrights to the two allegedly sampled tracks – so cannot bring a claim: In fact the copyrights are owned by Capitol Records owner Universal. According to the summary judgment motions, Trouble Funk members signed agreements in 1984 with Island Records, an affiliate of Universal. The deals were affirmed again in 1989. As a result of the agreements, Island became the exclusive owner to Trouble Funk sound recordings. What’s more, during depositions in this “Paul’s Boutique” sampling lawsuit, Trouble Funk members James Avery and Tony Fisher are said to have admitted that the agreements were valid and signed. Turning to the music publishing rights in the two songs, TufAmerica also says it now represents those. But Universal claims that Trouble Funk members James Avery and Tony Fisher assigned their rights in the two songs to a publisher and, via acquisitions, those copyrights ended up with the Polygram music publishing firm now part of Universal Music Publishing. With both parties co-owners, under US copyright law TufAmerica is not allowed to sue a co-owner of a copyright work.

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