Decisions: Nov. 29, 2007

Sixth Circuit upholds $5 million verdict against Sony Music

Case: Popovich v. Sony Music Entertainment
Court: 6th Circuit
Date: Nov. 21


Facts: Cleveland music guru Steve Popovich entered into a production deal with CBS Records In 1977 which provided, among other things, that he had the right to place the logo of his Cleveland Entertainment label on recordings covered by the agreement. In settling a suit over unpaid royalties, Sony agreed in 1998 to continue placing the logo on four Meat Loaf albums. Popovich sued for breach of contract in 2002, alleging Sony had not complied with the logo requirement, and a jury awarded him $5 million in damages.

Holding: A 2-1 majority of the court affirmed the verdict, ruling that the trial judge did not err by letting the jury decide whether the limitation of remedies in the 1977 agreement applied to the logo obligation under the 1998 agreement and whether Sony was obligated under the later agreement to put the logo on compilations and Internet downloads containing Meat Loaf songs. The court also affirmed that Popovich is not entitled to prejudgment interest on his award.

Attorneys of Record: David Blakeslee Webster, Webster & Dubyak in Cleveland, for Popovich; Paul Gardephe, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler in New York for Sony.

To read the full opinion, click here (PDF)

Case: Bridgeport Music v. WB Music
Court: 6th Circuit
Date: Nov. 21


Facts: Bridgeport owns the rights to the 1983 song "Pumpin' It Up" by the P-Funk All Stars and Universal-MCA owns a partial interest in the song "Change Gone Come" co-written by Snoop Dogg. In a copyright infringement suit filed in 2001, Bridgeport alleged that Universal illegally "sampled and/or interpolated" parts of "Pumpin' It Up" in versions of "Change Gone Come" performed by Snoop Dogg and Michael Hutchence on the albums "Dead Man Walkin'" and "Well Connected." A trial judge summarily dismissed the case in May 2006.

Holding: The court affirmed the summary dismissal, finding Universal had not granted an oral, written or implied license in the allegedly infringing versions of "Change Gone Come" and was not liable for contributory infringement because "Bridgeport introduced no evidence that Universal induced, caused, or contributed to the infringement of another party."

Attorneys of Record: Richard Busch, King & Ballow in Nashville for Bridgeport; Russell Frackman, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles for Universal.

To read the full opinion, click here (PDF)
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