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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    You can easily substitute many terms for "copyright" and make the same point.

    While this case perhaps is in the context of copyright law, cases of this type are seen all the time, cases brought by people with a somewhat out-of-the-norm view of what constitutes "justice".

     

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

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    It isn't copyright - it's just someone abusing the legal system period. They probably would do the samething over someone letting their dog crap on their yard. Nice shot to try to ding copyright, but it's not really about the good or the bad of copyright.

     

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

  3.  
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    Justin, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    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.

     

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

  4.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    I can't find a PDF of it anywhere, but the case is Janky v. Lake County Convention And Visitors Bureau, 576 F.3d 356 C.A.7 (Ind. August 03, 2009).

    It's a hilarious read.

     

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

  5.  
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    Shawn (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Re:

     

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

  6.  
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    Shawn (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Sounds smart to me

    they (the band) provided the song to the tourism board for the cost of production. She actually got a $100,000 summary judgment that was overturned on appeal

     

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

  7.  
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    MAC, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:16pm

    Doo Wopper...

    Gee, maybe if we reform the law to require the loosing lawyer put up half of the court costs along with the plaintiff putting up the other half the losers would be a lot less inclined to launch a 'questionable' law suit.

     

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

  8.  
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    davebarnes (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    Grammar Nazi Alert

    "the band sold less than 2,000 CDs"
    fewer

     

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

  9.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re:

    Thanks!

     

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

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Wish I could

    Lake County...Nice area if you like dying.
    I wish I could sue her for my portion of taxpayer dollars being blown on this crap.

     

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

  11.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Wish I could

    Nice area if you like dying.

    Michigan has a trademark on being a place to die!

     

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

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    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.

     

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

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 9:52pm

    Re: Grammar Nazi Alert

    There is nothing incorrect with the grammar in that statement. Mathematically, 'fewer than' is not a statement.

     

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

  14.  
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    John85851 (profile), Nov 15th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    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.

     

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


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