FOUR LOVE & LEGAL LESSONS LEARNED FROM LOVE & HIP HOP NEW YORK SEASON 4
This season of Love & Hip Hop New York played out like the title of cast member, Brian “Saigon” Carenard’s sophomore album, The Greatest Story Ever Told 2: Bread & Circuses. We saw Saigon try to work on his relationship with Eric Jean, the mother of his son. Then there was the whole love triangle between rapper-turned-manager Peter Gunz, his wife Amina Buddafly, and Tara Wallace, the mother of his two sons. Joe Budden tried to win Tahiry back. Yandy embraced the challenges of being a single parent, while her fiancé, Mendeecee Harris was in jail awaiting trial on federal drug trafficking charges. Of course, we cannot forget the Rich Dollaz, Erica Mena and Cyn Santana love triangle.
Despite all of its drama and craziness, Love & Hip Hop New York Season 4, provided some valuable legal lessons.
LEGAL LESSON #1 – IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Many of us may not be familiar with Saigon’s professional background prior to Love & Hip Hop. He played aspiring rapper Turtle in HBO’s hit series Entourage. Siagon also signed a record deal with Atlantic Records in 2004. As is common in the music industry, creative differences arose between Siagon and Atlantic. Siagon explained to Billboard, “It’s not that I didn’t want to put out music, but Atlantic wanted me to do ringtone songs, but they didn’t sign me as a ringtone artist.” He added, “That he was left without much support when, the A&R rep who signed him, Kyambo Hip-Hop Joshua left to join Columbia records three months afterwards.”
Saigon hired a lawyer to help him get released from his contract with Atlantic. In 2008, after numerous delayed release dates for his debut album, Saigon was finally let go from his contract. According to Rolling Stone, “Saigon walked away with 100% ownership of his [unreleased] album The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
Like Saigon, many emerging artist are eager to land that coveted record label deal and fail to scrutinize the contract terms. Some of Saigon’s contract anguish could have been alleviated if he had negotiated a man main clause into his contract. A main man clause stipulates that when a certain individual leaves the record label the contract terminates.
Even though, an artist signs a recording agreement the record label does not have an obligation to release the artist’s album. Saigon should have had a clause guaranteeing the release of his debut album incorporated into the contract. Or at the very least, he should have negotiated a clause that allowed him to go to another label if his album was not released.
Most record label contracts contain work-for-hire clauses, which states all music recorded by the artist is owned by the record label. It would have been in Saigon’s interest to request a contract clause that allowed him to regain ownership of all the masters he recorded, if he and the record label parted ways. This way he would have still been able to exploit the masters even though he was no longer signed to Atlantic. Thankfully, his lawyer was able to secure this in his release agreement.
LEGAL LESSON #2 – ASK BEFORE YOU BORROW
So Tell me where you from
Uptown baby, Uptown baby
We gets down baby, up for the crown baby
Who can forget the infectious hook from Peter Gunz and Lord Tariq’s hit single “Déjà Vu.” The song’s track contained an unauthorized sample of Steely Dan’s “Black Cow.” Steely Dan brought a lawsuit against the rap duo and was awarded a six figure settlement. They also received all of the publishing rights to “Déjà Vu” and 90% royalties for the song. As a result, Love & Hip Hop cast member, Peter Gunz has been unable to financially profit from the song.
Sampling music is common place in the hip-hop industry. However, under the law, an artist is required to obtain two types of copyrights prior to sampling a song, a sound recording copyright (typically owned by the record label) and a musical composition copyright (owned by the songwriter or publishing company). The fees to license a song/sample varies greatly.
The track to “Déjà Vu” was produced by Brian Kierulf and Joshua Schwartz of KNS Productions. A producer agreement could have helped Peter Gunz and Lord Tariq to avoid the “Déjà Vu” fiasco. Producer agreements often have clauses requiring the producer to provide proof that any sample used in a track has been cleared. An indemnification clause allows the artist to recover legal fees and cost from the producer if the artist is sued for use of an uncleared sample.
Check out this clip from the “Classic Albums” documentary series showing Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen singing along to “Déjà Vu” while discussing the making of Black Cow.
LOVE LESSON #1 – LOVE IS NOT A YO-YO
I could not end this blog post without providing a summary of my Secretary, Yvette’s insights on this season of Love & Hip Hop New York. I give the legal and Yvette provides the real.
Seeing as how today is Valentine’s Day it’s fitting Yvette chose to provide some love advice
Yvette first love lesson, “When you love someone, you can’t treat them like a yo-yo and use them only when you are in need and then throw them away, and expect them to still be there.”
LOVE LESSON # 2 – LOVE IS LIKE A FRAGILE PACKAGE
Yvette’s second love lesson is, “Love is like a fragile package. You must handle it with care. Your goal is not to break it or hurt it and that is how you should strive to treat the person you love at all times.”
The J. Paye & Associates team wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Disclaimer: This blog post does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an entertainment or intellectual property lawyer to discuss your legal needs.
Happy New Year! In 2013, I was a little lax about updating the J. Paye in Brief blog due to the deamnds of being a lawyer. My goal for this year is to be more consistent in bringing you interesting entertainment and celebrity stories with a legal spin. Let’s get started with the first post of 2014.
It’s a new year and a time when many of us make resolutions. Maybe, your resolution is to become a successful blogger and entreprenuer. Celebrity Blogger, Necole Bitchie went from being unemployed and sleeping on the couches of friends/family to creating a thriving blog and brand. It took a lot of hardwork and sacrifice on her part to start realizing her business goals. As Necole says, “It takes time to get that breakthrough.“
Necole Bitchie was recently interviewed on Power 105.1′s ”The Breakfast Club.” She talked about some of the legal challenges she had to overcome. In the interview, she candidly talks about receiving cease and desist letters for using an unlicensed photo of Jay-Z and Beyonce on her blog.
In this digital age, there are several misconceptions about downloading and using pictures and video from the Internet. One common misconception is if an image is on the Internent, it is in the public domain and no permission is required to use the image. Or if an image can be downloaded from the Internet, it can be used without permission.
The reality is, once a photo or other image is created it is automatically copyrighted. Once an image is copyrighted permission is requried to use it. Copyright law prohibits both accidental and willful copyright infringement. If you use a picture from the Internet on your blog without permission, you can be liable for damages even if you did not know the picture was copyrighted.
How can you use photos on your blog, website, or online magazine without infringing on someone’s copyright? One option is to hire a professional photographer. Although, you hire a photographer to take headshoots of you or produce imagery for your website, that does not necessarily mean you own the rights to the final images. Ask the photographer to sign a work-for-hire agreement that stipulates copyright ownership of the final images belong to you. Or if the photographer already has photos you like ask if they will license them to you on a exclusive or non-exclusive basis. A entertainment or intellectual property lawyer can help you with these agreements.
There are sites like istockphoto, getty images, and others that offer stock photos that can be licensed or purchased for a fee. As Necole mentioned, in her interview licensing multiple photos can become expensive…especially if your business is in the startup phase and has limited capital. A cost effective alternative, is to use your camera phone to capture your own photos and videos to use on your blog/website.
Here’s to putting in the time and work necessary to get your breakthrough in 2014!
DISCLAIMER: The contents of this post does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney to discuss your legal needs.
Eight times USA National Champion, Olympian athlete, motivational speaker and inspiration, Khadevis Robinson is truly the modern day ‘Renaissance Man.’ Last year, J. Paye had the opportunity to speak with the 2012 Olympian while he was in the process of moving into his new home. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions and dished out all the details about qualifying for the United States 2012 Olympic track team, life and his inspirations.
In 2008, Robinson qualified for the Olympic Trails however did not make the team because he placed fourth in a qualifying race when he needed to be in the top three. Nonetheless, he did not let what he described as one of the most disappointing moments of his career get him down. He spent the last three years training just as hard, pushing himself to his limit and made the 2012 Olympic team. Although, once he got to London he did not make the semifinals he states, “There are no failures or mistakes. There are only lessons!”
It is his positive out look on life that makes him a phenomenal motivational speaker. He uses defining moments from his life to uplift others. For instance, while in college Robinson’s stepfather pasted away and it devastated his mother. Devastated her to the point that he believed that he needed to drop out of school and abandon a promising track & field career to take care of her. It was a conversation with his biological father, who was an absent figure in his life that aided him in making his decision. His father told him to pray, and after Khadevis prayed his prayers were clearly answered.
It is his spiritual beliefs that give him his positive outlook on life. He stated, “Everything in life has a purpose, every human has purpose.” He believes we all have an Olympian within and should release our inherited skills. Given that he is a motivational speaker he has to keep himself motivated if he wants to motivate others. He does this by constantly reading books, quotes and poems; he listens to and watches the CD’s andDVD’s of Les Brown, Jim Rohn, Zig Zigler and Tony Robbins. He also watches motivational movies and listens to motivational songs.
Every person wants to leave behind a legacy. The legacy Robinson wants to create is that every person he has crossed paths with says that he made a positive impact or influence on their lives. His legacy, which is rooted in his spiritual belief, is “We are all one.” So, if we are all one, when we are helping another person, we are actually also helping ourselves.
For more information on Khadevis Robinson check out http://www.khadevis.com/. Remember that WE ALL HAVE A STORY! Let’s share it with the world.
“Awaken Your Olympian Within.”
Connect with Khadevis on twitter
J. Paye in Brief
As an attorney and entrepreneur each day is filled with unique challenges that I need to resolve. On the day, that I interviewed KD for the J. Paye in Brief blog I was drafting a complaint for particularly complex client matter. While on the phone, I listened to KD describe his life story and how he overcame many obstacles in his career as a track & field athlete and Olympian. His motivational words gave me renewed energy to tackle the client matter. He is truly a motivating individual.
After each interview for the J. Paye blog, I gain new insight. During our conversation, Khadevis stated that when he first started building his brand he did not copyright the motivational videos and book he produced and published on his website. Prior to meeting me, many of my entertainment clients fail to copyright their song lyrics, screen plays, graphic designs and other materials.
Copyright registration is permissive. A person can still initiate a copyright infringement suit for original works of authorship (material) they created, but have not registered with the copyright office. However, copyright law provides certain incentives for individuals to register their work. An individual who has registered his work can request an award of reasonable attorney fees. Generally, a person involved in litigation can only seek to recover attorney fees if it is provided for by statute or contract. Additionally, having a copyright registration is prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright. As I stated in prior blog posts, an individual can apply for copyright registration electronically by visiting copyright.gov and paying a $35 filing fee.
Contact J. Paye & Associates with specific questions you have pertaining to copyright registration or infringement.
On September 24, the VH1 Reality show Chrissy and Mr. Jones premiered. The show chronicles the lives of hip hop artist Jim Jones, his fiancé Chrissy Lampkin, and his mother Nancy “Mama” Jones. All three originally appeared in the VH1 show, Love and Hip Hop.
In the season premier, as recapped on the VH1 site, “Mama Jones has some drama in her life over the Psychotic Bitch song. [Music producer Freddie Robinson, Jr.,] who produced the song, wants a cut of [Mama Jones] money, but she’s not having it. As far as she’s concerned, she came up with the concept, therefore no one deserves a cut. Freddie begs to differ claiming ownership rights.”
As an intellectual property attorney, I had to laugh during this scene. Mama Jones is not alone in her thinking….I often have to explain to clients that an idea or concept is not entitled to copyright protection. Copyright law only protects, original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
In Mama Jones situation, Freddie has ownership rights to the track he produced for the song. He would also have ownership rights in the lyrics if he wrote them. Mama Jones should have had Freddie sign a work-for-hire agreement prior to producing the song if she wanted sole ownership rights to the Psychotic Bitch song. Additionally, Freddie would not be entitled to revenue generated from the song under a work-for-hire agreement.
A work for hire agreement is a written contract, which essentially says, that the person or company who commissions a work from an author retains actual ownership and is, in fact, considered the legal author of the work. The actual creator of the work has no rights to payment beyond what was promised in the initial work-for-hire agreement.
It appears that Mama Jones may find herself in the same position as Real Housewife of Atlanta star, Kim Zolciak. In 2009, music producer, Don Vito initiated a lawsuit against Kim Zolciak for copyright infringement when she failed to compensate him for producing the song Don’t be Tardy for the Party.
Mama Jones can rid herself of all this drama by having Freddie sign a written agreement transferring all ownership rights to the Psychotic Bitch song over to her. Guess will just have to watch the rest of the season of Chrissy & Mr. Jones to see how this situation pans out for Mama Jones. Today, Yvette, my administrative assistant informed me that in a subsequent episode Jim Jones and Freddie had “an encounter” about the song. Yvette felt sorry for Freddie that he was being disrespected like he was nothing by another man. She wants to know how come both of them can have a close relationship with Mama Jones for all these years and not know each other. I’ll leave that topic for Necole Bitchie and other bloggers to discuss.
Prior to posting this post, I had a conversation with my administrative assistant Yvette.
Contact J. Paye & Associates today to discuss your copyright needs.
Most of us know Anthony Frasier as the young tech entrepreneur from Newark, New Jersey, who was featured in CNN’s Black in America 4: Silicon Valley. Many of us do not know that his biggest fear when it comes to being an entrepreneur is poverty. Frasier states, “I dream of not having to…I know what [poverty] looks like…I’ve slept on project floors before. I don’t even want to be at that kind of point again that’s one of the things that strikes fear in me so I work harder.”
Although, Frasier has transcended his humble beginnings he credits his background for making him a strong entrepreneur. He says in business, “you have to have thick skin.” He developed this mentality growing up in a rough area of the Newark, where he had to deal, “with so many characters so many different types of people, so there was really nothing new in terms of the type of characters [he deals] with in business today.” Frasier has never stated this in prior interviews he exclusively tells us at J.Paye, that he credits his experience as a cadet in the ROTC program it helped him develop the leadership skills he needed to become a successful entrepreneur. He said, “learning how to be a leader and those courses and those environments really prepared me.”
As Frasier says “success doesn’t come over night and there is a lot of ground work and time you have to put in.” Frasier took a non-traditional route to becoming a tech entrepreneur, he went to a community college for a year and a half and didn’t like the “vibe” so he dropped out and became a gamer. He realized that he had to turn his passion for video games into a way that he could make money.
In 2008, Frasier created the website Koalition with a friend. IGN a popular website for gamers was their competition. Frasier and his partners decided to differentiate their site from IGN by offering articles and other content for the urban audience. The concept was successful the site gets over 100,000 users a day and also had a content partnership with rapper 50 Cent. Frasier also co-developed Playd a mobile app that allows people to share what games they are playing at the moment.
Although, his business partner wrote the code for Playd, Frasier feels it is important for all technicians to learn how to write codes. He says, “You can build something with a whole lot of users without a whole lot of money…you can be a coder in your basement. Look at Facebook…I use the example everyday…those guys definitely need money for servers and stuff like that, but to start they didn’t need any money.”
Movies such as The Social Network and The Pirates of Silicon Valley depict how the tycoons of Silicon Valley feuded over codes. According to Frasier, you do not hear about this happening much anymore. This is because sites like Open Source makes it okay to use other people’s code. He recommends that if you develop your own code have all third-parties sign a non-disclosure agreement before sharing the code with them.
As an aside, Anthony Frasier’s favorite Platform is the Xbox 360. He recommends indy games, which are video games that are made by start-ups. If he had to choose one Indy Game it would be Limbo a game he is currently playing.
Frasier ended the interview by saying, he “doesn’t feel like [he has] ever had a major success yet. So [he] keeps going. Always looking at the glass half full and [he] has more learning to do.”
J. Paye In Brief…
As an intellectual property lawyer, you can imagine my surprise when Anthony Frasier stated that his company does not have any Intellectual Property. He explained, “In the tech industry…there is a difference…if you have something that you can patent…like the Google search algorithm that is valuable.”
During our conversation, I learned that tech entrepreneurs have a different definition of what qualifies as intellectual property. I can’t say if a trademark is more valuable than a patent, but it is in the interest of all tech start-ups to protect all of their intellectual property whether it is a copyright, patent, or trademark. A developer can copyright a source code by submitting an online application and paying the $35 filing fee. The name of the company can be trademarked electronically as well. It is advisable to consult an intellectual property attorney before filing a trademark or copyright application.
Frasier is correct that developers should have potential investors, outsourcers and other third parties sign non-disclosure agreements before transmitting a copy of the code to them. This will enable developers to maintain the confidentiality of their source code. Again, developers and startups should engage an intellectual property or contract lawyer to draft a non-disclosure agreement. In an earlier blog post To WordPress…or Not to Wordpress I explain the benefits and ramifications of using open source code.
As video games continue to evolve and offer more interactive experiences, the debate about their effects on minors will continue to grow. Currently, the video game industry is self-regulated and numerous states attempt to impose government regulation have been unsuccessful. Last year, the United States Supreme Court held that a California law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under 18 was unconstitutional.
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Recently, the J. Paye website was converted into a WordPress site. My graphic designer explained the benefits of converting to a WordPress site such as the ease of customizing and updating the site. As a copyright attorney, my first question was who would own the copyright to the site. With previous versions of the site, I had a contractual understanding with my graphic designer and web developer that their contributions to the site would be treated as a work-made-for-hire and J. Paye would own all copyrights to the site. Converting to a WordPress site did not affect the copyrights I retain in the site design and content. But, moving the site to this platform did affect the copyright I held in the site code.
WordPress is an open platform that allows individuals to contribute codes, templates, and plugins that can be incorporated into a WordPress site. However, all contributors to the WordPress platform retain the copyright to their code. Under the General Public License users of the platform are allowed to copy, distribute and/or modify software files posted on the site.
As a result of converting to a WordPress site, I no longer own the copyright to the code used to build the site. This is not a critical issue for me, because the purpose of my site is to provide legal information. WordPress is not the best option for an individual or company seeking to develop a website that offers some novel or unique web technology.
This is because the technology incorporated into the website and the code that powers it is valuable intellectual property. By making this code publicly available on an open platform like WordPress, the individual loses the ability to effectively protect his intellectual property and license the technology or code. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook utilizing an open platform the code he wrote would be freely available to anyone using WordPress. In turn, they would be able to use the code to create social media sites identical to Facebook. If your website offers innovative technology like Facebook it would be better to hire a developer under a work-for-hire agreement to build the website.
Before building a website, it is best to seek the advice of a knowledgeable copyright and/or internet lawyer.