Frankie Valli And Ex-Jersey Boys Actors Sue Each Other Over Who Can Sing What Songs

from the ownership-society dept

When you're involved in a successful production, sooner or later lawsuits are going to pop up. A couple years ago, we wrote about a legal fight concerning the "ownership" of the famous story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, as chronicled in the massively successful Broadway musical, Jersey Boys. That lawsuit concerned whether or not anyone could claim ownership of basic facts about these guys, as the widow of a guy, who wrote an (unpublished) biography of one of the band members, wanted a cut of the play's revenue. However, it seems as though there are some other lawsuits surrounding the Jersey Boys as well. Apparently Frankie Valli and the four original cast members of Jersey Boys are engaged in a legal battle that's turning nasty.

The cast members want to go around performing covers of the songs in the play. Normally, performing covers is perfectly legal, given that the various compulsory licenses are paid. However, what makes this situation a little tricky is the fact that the musical is still out there. So Valli sued the cast members, saying that they weren't just performing covers, but they were creating a competing "unauthorized" musical, including, copying not just songs but "stage elements" and "logos" from the play.

The four cast members are now counter-suing, claiming that the original lawsuit is "motivated by petty vindictiveness and malice," and saying that Valli is "using bully tactics better suited for the schoolyard." All of that may be true, but it's not clear that much matters in the context of a lawsuit. Much more convincing is the basic claim that everything these four guys are doing is legal. It's factually accurate that they performed in Jersey Boys and can sing those songs, with the proper compulsory license. But, of course, with the added elements of the play, the copyright question gets a bit murkier. All it really shows is how copyright is, yet again, being used to stop performances and creativity, because someone claims to "own" parts of culture. What a shame.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Jay (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 11:51am

    Well, we might as well give them some Fight music

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Ok so...

    Cue for TAM in 4...3...2...1...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 12:40pm

    More proof that musicals suck.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    TAM, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    This is completely different than a cover as it is competing. You don't see any other cover bands or cover artists around while the originals are alive.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Re:

    uh, yes you do. There are about a million cover bands that are playing songs by artists that are still alive. Do you ever leave your mom's basement?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 12:54pm

    A couple years ago, we wrote about a legal fight...

    Link?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    TAM, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re:

    My basement is tiled with gold bricks paid for with the royalties that I used to get before the pirates started stealing money that belongs to me.

    Cover bands aren't even real bands. If they were they wouldn't have to steal other people's music without giving the money that the original artists deserved to them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Leviathant (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    Re:

    Apparently you've never opened the entertainment section of your local free weekly newspaper. "Tribute" bands are a dime a dozen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Leviathant (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Curious - what's your take on the world of classical music, if you're telling us that cover bands aren't even real bands? Some of the best musicians in the world play other people's music almost exclusively.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Where in the article does it say they are not paying license fees?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    BBT, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Are you really that bad at noticing a satirical sarcastic troll? You're responding to a guy making fun of the "real" TAM, who is just an ordinary take-absurd-contrarian-positions-to-get-a-rise-out-of-people troll.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    TAM, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well that right there proves my point. It's always in the dollar bin at the record shop I shop at. Nobody likes the music before the copyright dates. Also one guy playing a piano doesn't make a band.

    Sadly tribute bands aren't worth a dime. They are stealing other people's music and not paying for it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Leviathant (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Does the anti-mike even legitimately post here any more? How many readers even know what TAM stands for anyway?

    If a clown's going to show up - even wearing another clown's suit, and he's welcome to the venue, why not let him entertain?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Ted E Bear, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Re:

    Ummm can you say mini kiss. Tribute band and kiss is still around. Or how about Dark Star Orchestra.

     

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  15.  
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    Mojo_LA, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 2:31pm

    Do tribute bands pay royalties?

    Found this:

    As a member of a Beatles tribute act I have had cause to find out about this. Technically, a band that is still trading as a live act (such as The Eagles who have recently reformed) could arguably have a cause for legal action against a tribute act if it could be shown that they were losing audiences to the tribute act (or were otherwise being undermined or devalued by the presence of the tribute act). of course, this would be most unlikely, but it's not impossible. There could also be a case for an audience member to take an action if he were duped into believing that a tribute act were the real thing. The reality is, though, that most big acts are more than happy for tribute acts to ply their trade - it's effectively free promotion for the 'real' act's records. As for PRS, the same rules apply to tribute acts as to anyone else. Tribute acts have to pay PRS fees for sound clips used on their websites. As for live performances, it is the responsibility of the venue (not the act) to pay the PRS fees. Most major live venues will be well used to paying their PRS fees, but for private performances (and for most tribute acts, weddings, parties etc. are the main source of work), the PRS doesn't usually bother pursuing fees as it's too difficult to police

    From:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,,-197279,00.html

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 6:48pm

    Compulsory license exists for _recording_ covers, not for live performance of covers. Live performance is the domain of the public performance license which is not one of the compulsory licenses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:41am

    "using bully tactics better suited for the schoolyard."

    So bully tactics are suited for the schoolyard. Of course, it all makes perfect sense now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Louis Gallina, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 7:15am

    Jersey Boys Lawsuit

    Your column is ridiculous. Frankie Valli is CORRECT to limit usage. Singing the songs from the show is fine, but any form or recreating staging and storyline should not be allowed to be done by ANY PREVIOUS CAST MEMBERS. This is one of the best broadway shows ever and Frankie Valli is one of hte nicest people ever. It's his life story and his music. These cast members should show some respect FOR THE MAN AND THE MUSIC THAT PUT THEM ON THE MAP!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Derec, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 8:56am

    I run a few of my own tribute bands and have to wonder, so long as relevant royalies are paid, what is the problem?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2011 @ 1:29am

    Re: Jersey Boys Lawsuit

    I saw the show and they don't recreate anything! They talk about their experience in the show thats about as far as it goes! And another thing, these guys sang on the Jersey Boys soundtrack, which was the first Grammy that Frankie Valli ever won!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Jennifer Tobin, Apr 4th, 2014 @ 6:31am

    it's a shame

    Sorry to hear that greed and supposedly ownership of these songs and other things have thrown a BIG MONKEY WRENCH in everyone's day !!!
    I'm sure glad I never got into show business ... not sure how I could cut someone's throat and then sleep at night ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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