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November 14, 2009

Copyright Law Gone Mad: Series Of Lawsuits Over Telephone Jingle


This one's from a few months back, but still quite interesting. It is a story of a series of lawsuits between a musician and a town tourism board over a song the singer apparently wrote. The backstory is that the musician, Cheryl Janky, was a member of a doo wop a cappella group called Stormy Weather (perhaps that should have been a warning), who had, as a founder and singer, a guy named Henry Farag. Janky wrote a song called "Wonders of Indiana." With Farag's help, the song was modified to become "Lake County, Indiana," "a doo-wop ode to the border county that rhymes 'ethnic diversity' with 'Hoosier hospitality.'" Farag then did a deal with the tourism board of Lake County, who bought 1,500 copies of the band's CD to sell in its gift shop, and used the song as hold music for callers. The tourism board also had the band (with Janky in it) perform at the opening of of the tourism board's new center. That all happened in 1999.

In 2003, however, Janky left the band, and suddenly was pissed off about how "her" song was being used. She filed a lawsuit in 2003, and since then:

The case has spawned at least three lawsuits, thousands of dollars in judge-ordered sanctions against the woman's attorneys, a three-day trial, estimated legal fees of more than $500,000, reams of paperwork and a subpoena issued to a federal judge.

And for what? Farag notes that the band sold less than 2,000 CDs total (most of which seem to be from the tourism board's purchase). And yet, Janky continues to pursue the case, with her lawyer insisting she needs to do this to "stand up for her creative rights." Meanwhile, this is the same lawyer who apparently "has been sanctioned twice by separate judges in the case for filing frivolous claims and last month was ordered to put down a $5,000 deposit before filing more lawsuits on Janky's behalf 'to cover the high probability of additional sanctions.'"

Ah, the crazy things that a misunderstanding of copyright makes people do.

Read the Chicago Tribune article.

I know Henry and this whole thing has been an absurd nightmare. Get your paperwork in order folks but keep it reasonable. A handshake still counts in my world.

Posted by acapnews at November 14, 2009 12:00 AM


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