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.
J. Paye Talks All Things Love & Hip Hop Atlanta
By now, you can probably tell that I am a reality TV junkie. When you have a job that requires intense use of your brain cells, mindless television is a welcomed distraction.
It’s been awhile since I talked about Love & Hip. A lot of the blogs and media outlets have commented on how Love & Hip Hop Atlanta is ratchet TV and portrays negative stereotypes of the black community.
I am not going to comment on all that, but the show does depict many different legal issues. Like, when Erica and Scrappy called off their engagement. Did Erica have a legal obligation to give back the ring? Or can Rashida use footage of Kurt cheating, their arguments over finances and Kurt suggesting she have an abortion as proof of irreconcilable differences in a divorce proceeding. And also, what recourse does DJ’s Baby Dre and Traci Steel have against their shoe store business partner, who ran away with their money. These are all interesting questions and may be discussed in another blog post.
What I really want to talk about is the whole Stevie J and Josline fiasco. First off, Josline should have read the talent management and producer agreement before signing it. What really baffles me is why she would let Stevie J hold on to the signed contract without making a copy for herself. I guess these things happen when business and pleasure are mixed.
Josline is not happy with the way Stevie J has been managing her career. She wants out of the contract she signed with him. According to Stevie J, Josline is signed to him for life. (Although he did say once this season that, maybe Josline is signed to him for 6 years).
This is a common issue I see in my law practice. The first step is to see if the manager, producer, record label, etc. will voluntarily release you from the contract. It’s good to get a written release. If this fails, see if one of the contract defenses duress, impossibility, or the contract is unconscionable applies.
In Josline’s situation there are facts to argue that the management contract is unconscionable. Josline had very limited experience in the music industry. Stevie J is a seasoned industry executive. He created hit singles for Mariah Carey, P. Diddy and Eve. He is also older. Josline could argue that Stevie J took advantage of her inexperience. It’s very likely a court would find a contract indenturing Josline to Stevie for life unconscionable. Unless, the lifelong commitment was a marriage. It looks like Josline is really pushing to get married to Stevie.
The last option is to wait out the contract term. Many artists often find themselves in this position, when there has been a breakdown in the relationship with the label or management.
Yvette in Brief
We strive to give two viewpoints in this blog. My administrative assistant, Yvette always has dead on insight and she commented on the last Love & Hip Hop blog post. She feels Kurt is tired of being married and just wants to be a free man. He has been with Rashida since they were 18. Yvette believes, Kurt has been hostile to Rashida in order to get a free pass to cheat, which is something he’s had on his mind for awhile. You noticed he went in the room with not one but two girls. Yvette’s advice is for Rashida to leave Kurt, but realizes its easy for her to say because Kurt is not her husband.
As for Stevie J and Mimi…Yvette said, Stevie was quick to accept the car keys back from Mimi. He did not even offer them back to her probably because it was time for him to return his “rental.” I can’t believe Yvette thinks Stevie gave Mimi a rental car as a gift.
That’s it for all things Love & Hip Hop Atlanta Season 2.