Hollywood Docket: Lumineers Ex-Member; Rocky Top, Tennessee; 'Rambo Knives'

A roundup of entertainment law news including a victory for American cities that wish to change their names to song titles.
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The Lumineers

The Lumineers, the band that broke out with the song "Ho Hey," is facing a lawsuit from ex-member Jason Van Dyke.

In a complaint filed on May 22 in New Jersey federal court, the plaintiff says his contributions have been minimized. Van Dyke was invited into the band by Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, was allegedly told he would be an equal partner and promised co-authorship on songs.

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Starting in 2008, Van Dyke says he participated in performances, recordings and songwriting until Schultz and Fraites moved to Colorado the following year. Even afterwards, Van Dyke says he continued to participate in recording sessions for the band's second EP and played some live dates when the Lumineers showed up on the East Coast.

But Van Dyke is unhappy at how he's been left out in the cold -- denied credit on copyright, trademark and SoundExchange registrations. "In biographic and publicity materials that routinely accompany the numerous record releases of Schultz and Fraites’s current band, Van Dyke has been ostracized and rendered 'invisible' through a false narrative," says the complaint.

Van Dyke is now seeking a declaration of his claimed co-authorship of nine songs, including "Scotland," which is being used as the theme song of The CW's television show Reign. He's also asserting conversion and misappropriation of partnership assets, breach of contract and fiduciary duties and unjust enrichment. Here's the full complaint.

Representatives for the band haven't responded to a request for comment.

  • SoundExchange is getting behind a push to pass The RESPECT Act, introduced on Thursday by U.S. congressmen George Holding (R-NC) and John Conyers (D-MI). The legislation would require digital radio services to pay royalties for the performance of pre-1972 sound recordings. It's been a hot topic in courts of late with several pending lawsuits against SiriusXM. In one of those cases -- an RIAA battle  -- an important court hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 21. Some clarity on whether entities that perform pre-'72 music without license are liable for misappropriation could be coming before lawmakers vote on the RESPECT Act.
  • One city in Tennessee won't be stopped from changing its name to the title of a famous song. House of Bryant Publications, the copyright and trademark owner of "Rocky Top," looked for a preliminary injunction to prevent Lake City, Tenn., from taking Rocky Top. U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan remarks that he couldn't say "whether this is the first time in history that a city has changed its name and been accused of trademark infringement." But the judge continues by saying that "it is not likely that Lake City is engaging in commerce by simply renaming itself 'Rocky Top.' Instead, 'Rocky Top, Tennessee' would merely be 'home sweet home' to the residents of the city currently known as 'Lake City, Tennessee.'" Here's the full opinion turning down the preliminary injunction.
  • Mass joinder lawsuits have suffered a setback. Indie film companies like Nu Image and porn companies like Malibu Media have used the controversial litigation tactic to stuff hundreds or thousands of anonymous torrent users into a single lawsuit for the purpose of identification and copyright threat. On Tuesday, though, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a plaintiff must show a "good faith belief" that John Does have a connection to the court's geographic territory and also was skeptical of the overall legal maneuver. According to the opinion, "Two BitTorrent users who download the same file months apart are like two individuals who play at the same blackjack table at different times. They may have won the same amount of money, employed the same strategy, and perhaps even played with the same dealer, but they have still engaged in entirely separate transactions."
  • A judge won't cut down a lawsuit over replica knives from the Rambo films. The dispute is between Hollywood Collectibles, the licensor, and Master Cutlery, the manufacturer. The licensing deal expired two years ago, but the Rambo knives are allegedly still being produced. Almost like the films.