We recently wrote about George Clinton speaking out about Bridgeport Music, the copyright troll that Clinton alleges forged paperwork to get the rights to Clinton's works, and then went on a rampage suing hundreds of (mainly hip hop) artists for sampling Clinton's work (something Clinton is in favor of allowing). As we noted, we were a little disappointed in the lack of clarity from Clinton on the details, but more of the picture is coming out, thanks first to a comment by people associated with Clinton, claiming:
Bridgeport claims ownership to the majority of P-Funk's music by using a forged document from 1983 dealing with the transfer of the Malbiz catalog of songs. Armen Boladian has admitted in court that he signed George's name, changed wording of the contract w/o notification, and practiced these same tactics on numerous other documents. Essentially Bridgeport acquired the music through theft, coercion, blackmail & other highly dubious actions.
Clinton has also put up a new video that appears to show Armen Boladian being deposed concerning these issues, implying strongly that he altered documents (the edits make it difficult to confirm the full accuracy of the questions Boladian is answering -- but assuming the edits are accurate, that's the picture the video paints).
Both the comment and the video suggest that Clinton is working on a RICO lawsuit against Boladian/Bridgeport. The video also suggests additional backroom dealings between record labels and Bridgeport, to avoid paying artists. Unfortunately, yet again the details of what Clinton is accusing the labels of is quite murky, but hopefully we'll get more details soon.
Of course, all of this seems to highlight the sheer insanity of "ownership" around "rights" in a song. You can't see it. You can't hold it. You can't block it off. The "rights" are fictions. They're whatever is on a piece of paper, and people can edit and change the paper. That's not property. It's an imaginary figment.
For many years, we've covered the odd situation between Bridgeport Music and George Clinton. The history there is highly disputed, but somewhere along the line, Bridgeport Music (apparently a one-man shop by a guy named Armen Boladian) "acquired" the rights to a bunch of George Clinton songs. Clinton claims that Boladian "stole" them and forged his signature on various documents. There are other versions of the story that involve questionable actions by agents, lawyers and record labels. Either way, about a decade ago, Boladian noticed that tons of hip hop songs sampled Clinton songs, and he dug up every single example he could find and sued them all -- filing hundreds of lawsuits. Some resulted in legal victories, including an absolutely dreadfully ridiculous ruling in the 6th Circuit, Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films, which involved an almost totally unrecognizable 2-second sample of a Funkadelic tune that had the pitch changed. The district court reasonably found no copyright violation, but the appeals court, in a ruling that shocked many copyright scholars, stated that any copy was a violation: "Get a license or do not sample. We do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way."
Either way, George Clinton and Bridgeport have battled it out before, with Clinton agreeing to testify on behalf of certain artists sued by Bridgeport in the past. Clinton claims that Bridgeport dropped the cases every time he did that. Last week, Bridgeport sued Lil Wayne over a George Clinton sample, and Clinton is apparently not at all happy about it, putting out the following video where he calls the whole thing "bullshit" (in two languages! so slightly NSFW):
The video also highlights some of Clinton's past dealings with Bridgeport and suggests that Clinton is getting involved in the fight. In the video, he states:
The DNA of hip hop has been hijacked, leaving many artists across generations in needless hardship.
Unfortunately, in all the years following Bridgeport and George Clinton, I have to admit that Clinton is anything but clear and detailed in explaining what happened or even what's going on today. The same is true of the current video which doesn't go into much detail. And while it points people to Clinton's blog Funkprobosci to "help stop" Bridgeport, there really isn't that much additional infromation. There is an FAQ, which has some info, but is again confusing and not particularly detailed. It would be great if there were a more complete and detailed explanation of (1) how Bridgeport got Clinton's music (2) the existing legal challenges between Clinton and Bridgeport, and (3) what Clinton is trying to do now.