July 21, 2024

The Jesus And Mary Chain settle with Warner Music in termination rights dispute

Warner Music has settled a lawsuit filed by The Jesus And Mary Chain over the good old termination right under US copyright law.

Band members Jim Reid and William Reid sued the major through the Californian courts in 2021 arguing that the record company was in breach of US copyright rules by refusing to accept termination notices they had filed in relation to recordings they released with the UK wing of the label in the 1980s.

The US termination right says that creators who assign their copyrights to third parties have an opportunity to terminate those assignments and reclaim their rights, albeit only within the US, after 35 years. On the songs side of the music industry, the employment of the termination right by American songwriters has become pretty routine.

The Jesus And Mary Chain settle with Warner Music in termination rights  dispute | Complete Music Update

However, many labels continue to argue that the right doesn’t usually apply on the recordings side, because – they claim – American record deals are often work for hire agreements, meaning the label not the artist is the default owner of any recording copyrights. Which in turn means there are no assignments of copyright to terminate.

There also remains disagreement over whether or not the termination right applies to publishing and record deals signed outside of the US.

Plus, with UK copyright law, if a label organises a recording session it is the default owner of the recording copyrights, which again means there would be no assignment to terminate. Though more clearly so, given the status of American record contracts as work for hire agreements remains disputed by many artists.

All of which made the legal filing by the Reid brothers interesting, give their deal with Warner was signed in the UK, meaning the major had three potential arguments to fire back: the termination right doesn’t apply to recordings generally; the termination right doesn’t apply to non-US contracts; and the termination right definitely doesn’t apply to UK recordings where the label organised the recording session.

Getting some judicial insight on the legitimacy of all or any of those arguments within the US courts would have been of value. But, alas, that now won’t happen.

A new filing with the court last week stated: “Plaintiffs James Reid and William Reid [trading as] The Jesus And Mary Chain and defendant Warner Music Group Corp, through their respective counsel of record, stipulate to dismissal with prejudice of this action in its entirety, with each party to bear its own costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees”.

A legal rep for the Reids then confirmed to Law360 that an out of court settlement had been reached. Details of said settlement are, needless to say, confidential, with the musicians’ lawyer saying simply: “It’s been amicably resolved”.

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