The unique thing about being an entertainment lawyer is…find out in my recent interview with CBS Local Chicago, here:
Lifetime’s Aaliyah biopic, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, aired Saturday night and sent the internet into an uproar. Viewers took to their social media accounts and expressed extreme disappointment in the film.
One of the problems with the film is that executive producers were not able to obtain life story rights from Aaliyah’s estate. Generally, to make a film based on someone’s life producers need to acquire the story rights from the individual or individual’s estate. A life story rights agreement contains several different clauses such as the producer has creative discretion to determine how to depict the story of the individual’s life. The life story rights agreement also gives the producer the ability to tell the individual’s story in different mediums such as, film, television, and theater. Sometimes, the agreement will give the individual the right to consult on the project.
Another way, to make a film based on someone’s life is to gain rights to a book based on that person’s life. That was the case with the Lifetime Aaliyah biopic. The film was based on author, Christopher John Farley’s book, Aaliyah: More than a Woman. Wendy Williams, who was an executive producer of the biopic commented about this on her talk show. Given all the negative feedback, I wonder if Mr. Farley is regretting granting Lifetime the movie rights to his book.
The second problem with the film is that Aaliyah’s estate prevented Lifetime from acquiring the rights to Aaliyah’s music – so none of the singer’s original songs were included in the movie. In most cases, it is considered copyright infringement to use music created by someone else without their permission. The executive producers of the Aaliyah biopic resorted to using some of the covers she did, like the Isley Brothers’ “At Your Best (You Are Love)” and Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give it Up,” since they were able to obtain a license for these songs.
As one viewer posted on Twitter
Hopefully, fans can get an Aaliyah biopic do over. It would be nice to see a film that base on life story rights that have been obtained from Aaliyah’s estate, licenses classic Aaliyah songs fans love, and allows her family, Missy Elliot, Timbaland, and Dame Dash to consult on the project.
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.
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.
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.
Jadine Joseph is a 21 year old aspiring lawyer that attends Howard University. This past summer she participated in the 2012 WEEN (Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network) Academy. Through WEEN each young woman received a virtual mentor, Jadine’s mentor is Johnetta Paye, Founder of J. Paye & Associates Law Firm. Jadine is currently the Marketing, Public Relations and Social Media intern for the firm.
J. Paye in Brief
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Throughout my life I have had many mentors who help to shape my legal career. This summer I had the opportunity to give back and help guide another young lawyer in the making. I was selected to be one of the virtual mentors for the WEEN Academy. WEEN is a three week program that WEEN academy is, the first program of its kind, to rigorously groom young women ages 18-22 to be the next entertainment executives and moguls.
My mentee was/is Jadine Joseph a senior at Howard University. When I first learned Jadine was my mentee I was surprised at how much we had in common. We are both raised in immigrant homes. Jadine was born in Grenada and emigrated to theUnited Statesat an early age. I was born in theLiberiaand came to theUnited Statesat the age of three. Both Jadine and I dreamed of being a lawyer when we were nine years old.
More than our similarities….Jadine’s ambition and drive really impressed me. The WEEN Academy students first assignment was an evaluation of how quickly they respond to introductory emails from business contacts. I sent an introductory email to Jadine and within 24 hours I had a lengthy email response back. Jadine has continued to amaze me with her talents. Currently, she is the social media, marketing and PR intern for J. Paye & Associates. This week’s blog post topic was to be a profile of Jadine, the WEEN academy and having me as a mentor. On Wednesday night Jadine, stated she decided to tell her story in a video that she produced and edited. I though the video was a true representation of Jadine’s personality…entertaining, youthful and vibrant. The video also captured Jadine’s love of the fashion, music and entertainment industry.
Throughout the mentorship experience Jadine has surprised me by thinking outside of the assignment guidelines and brining innovated and bold ideas. Not only, is Jadine a self starter who takes initative, she is also a leader and influencer. It was no small task for her to organize a small group of her peers to help her produce a video describing her WEEN experience for the J. Paye in Brief blog. Jadine has a promising future ahead of her. I am glad that I was given an opportunity to be one of her mentors and help hone the abundance of talent that she possesses.
I usually end my section of the blog post with legal insight. This is one of the frequently asked questions I get from my film production clients…when can I display a trademark or video in my music video or film. The answer is when you have a license or permission from the owner of the trademark or logo. If you do not have permission then do not include the trademark or logo in the shot. Additionally, when producing a video make sure you license any music contained in the video or use royalty free music.
The insight I would really like to leave readers with this week is the importance of mentoring. Mentoring is a great way to really make an impact in someone else’s life and is a truly rewarding experience. Enrich someone else’s life by becoming a mentor.