One of the hardest things of working in the music industry is steering clear of legal problems. Year after year, artists fund themselves with some unforeseen issues that ties up resources and runs up expenses. Whether it’s copyright issues, fan relations, or trouble with royalties, the range of issues that can spring up if the terms and guidelines are not carefully created or the wild nature of live performance takes control. Here some legal issues hitting major artists in the past month.
Live performance is always a wild time regardless of the act you’re going to see; be it a thrilling jazz improvisation or one of the hottest teen acts today. The latter brings us this story. Teen trio the Jonas Brothers are begin hit with a lawsuit from a fan. According to TMZ, Ashleigh Johnson was “agonizingly crushed” in a guard fence due to an uncontrolled crowd at the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles and claims to have suffered serious mental, emotional, and physical injuries. This is something that in most cases could be prevented, if the artist and the venue had planned better. More likely than not, security was only discussed on the side of the artist and not the fans. Sure, the event was in the middle of one of America’s largest cites but shows like this go on all the time with artists just as large as the Jonas Brothers. Just look at the Today Show’s Rockefeller Plaza concert series. They go off every year without problems. The key there is planning. They work with local law enforcement and plan adequately to make sure the event is safe.
The spark of creativity usually cannot be contained but sometime it can unsuspectingly pick up other people’s work. Singer Alicia Keys is feeling the heat from her smash song “Girl on Fire” as songwriter Earl Shulman has filed a copyright lawsuit against her. Shulman claims the song is too similar to his 1962 composition “Lonely Boy” which went to #2 on the Billboard charts as “Hey There Lonely Girl” by Eddie Holman. Shulman get the idea when music critic Roger Friedman stated that Keys “sings a couplet or two of “Hey There Lonely Girl” and it was an uncredited sample. It is unclear what the result will be. In themost famous case of plagiarism, George Harrison was ruled to give a large portion of royalties to the copyright holder of the song “He’s So Fine” due to similarities. The line that whole lawsuit came due to the writings of one critic due make it a little flimsy but this is a suit that’ll probably take a long time to reach a verdict, tying up resources for Ms. Keys. This is the rare case where a lawsuit could not have been avoided by the artist.
Artists also have to be careful of satisfying everyone they work with, no matter how far back they may have done so. P!nk has been hit with a lawsuit by the producers of two songs from her 1999 debut album Can’t Take Me Home. Specialists Entertainment states they are still waiting for half their royalites from two songs on the album, the title track “Can’t Take Me Home” and “Hiccup.” A representative for P!nk states that it is up to Sony, her record label, to pay royalties. I don’t know what the contract looks like between P!nk, Sony, and the producers but P!nk may be in the right here. If Sony did in fact arrange the producers for her album, then they would be in charge of royalties but if P!nk selected the producers herself then she might be liable because the agreement would be between her team and them. This could be avoided by making sure all parties are present at a negotiation and making sure it has terms for years past the recording’s determined shelf life.