Another Example Of Copyright Law Gone Mad: Series Of Lawsuits Over Telephone Jingle

from the make-it-stop dept

This one’s from a few months back, but still quite interesting. Danny submitted this story of a series of lawsuits between a musician and a town tourism board over a song the singer apparently wrote. The backstory is that the musician, Cheryl Janky, was a member of a doo wop band called Stormy Weather (perhaps that should have been a warning), who had, as a founder and singer, a guy named Henry Farag. Janky wrote a song called “Wonders of Indiana.” With Farag’s help, the song was modified to become “Lake County, Indiana,” “a doo-wop ode to the border county that rhymes ‘ethnic diversity’ with ‘Hoosier hospitality.'” Farag then did a deal with the tourism board of Lake County, who bought 1,500 copies of the band’s CD to sell in its gift shop, and used the song as hold music for callers. The tourism board also had the band (with Janky in it) perform at the opening of of the tourism board’s new center. That all happened in 1999.

In 2003, however, Janky left the band, and suddenly was pissed off about how “her” song was being used. She filed a lawsuit in 2003, and since then:

The case has spawned at least three lawsuits, thousands of dollars in judge-ordered sanctions against the woman’s attorneys, a three-day trial, estimated legal fees of more than $500,000, reams of paperwork and a subpoena issued to a federal judge.

And for what? Farag notes that the band sold less than 2,000 CDs total (most of which seem to be from the tourism board’s purchase). And yet, Janky continues to pursue the case, with her lawyer insisting she needs to do this to “stand up for her creative rights.” Meanwhile, this is the same lawyer who apparently “has been sanctioned twice by separate judges in the case for filing frivolous claims and last month was ordered to put down a $5,000 deposit before filing more lawsuits on Janky’s behalf ‘to cover the high probability of additional sanctions.'”

Ah, the crazy things that a misunderstanding of copyright makes people do.

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Comments on “Another Example Of Copyright Law Gone Mad: Series Of Lawsuits Over Telephone Jingle”

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Justin says:

Sounds smart to me

This sounds like a smart lawsuit to me, 2,000 CDs at maybe $10, I’ll assume there was a small check for the call hold music and a few other little things. Overall I will be very generous in guessing this deal was worth $50,000, So how does she think its a good idea to go rack up a $500,000+ trial bill? This is a great business plan.

Maybe when people like this pull a stunt that seems to only be for publicity their name should be left out of the article. Kinda like how the TV stations do not show a fan who runs on the field at a ball game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s just say that I wanted to hire a band to play at a wedding, some other life event. The first thing I’ll do is Google the name of the band and/or the individual singer. I’m sure most people would do the same thing, if only to get a sucks/doesn’t suck opinion from people who had prior experience with the band.

After doing a Google search, I’d never hire someone like Cheryl Janky, either for a one-time event or as a permanent employee, because as soon as she gets pissed off enough about something, she’ll trip and fall and start filing lawsuits all over the place.

John85851 (profile) says:

It's mine and I want it back

Yet again, this case isn’t about copyright as much as it’s about “I helped make that thing, I’m claiming that it’s mine, and I want it back”.

I agree that the legal system should be reformed so the losing side has to pay some kind of damages for wasting the court’s time. Otherwise, there’s no reason *not* to file a frivolous law suit.

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