Jim and William Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain this week sued the Warner Music Group for copyright infringement, alleging the band’s label has refused to turn over the copyrights to debut album Psychocandy and the group’s early singles under the so-called “35-year law.”
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeks $2.55 million in damages for “willful copyright infringement,” according to an announcement by the band’s publicists. The label, according to a letter included in the lawsuit, argues it retains the copyrights to the cited releases.
The Reids, in their 31-page complaint, allege that under Section 203 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, recording artists have the right to terminate prior grants of copyright to their record labels 35 years after the material was released — and that WMG has failed to do so following the band’s request.
Evan S. Cohen, the attorney representing the Mary Chain, says in a news release:
“Our copyright law provides recording artists and songwriters with a valuable, once-in-a-lifetime chance to terminate old deals and regain their creative works after 35 years. This ‘second chance’ has always been a part of our copyright law. In this case against WMG, the label has refused to acknowledge the validity of any of the Notices of Termination served by The Jesus and Mary Chain, and has completely disregarded band’s ownership rights. Despite the law returning the U.S. rights to the band, WMG is continuing to exploit those recordings and thereby willfully infringing upon our clients’ copyrights. This behavior must stop. The legal issues in this suit are of paramount importance to the music industry.”
According to the lawsuit, the Reids served WMG with a notice of copyright termination on Jan. 7, 2019, for the albums Psychocandy, Darklands, Barbed Wire Kisses, Automatic and Honey’s Dead, along with 10 singles and EPs released between 1985 and 1992.
The label’s copyrights on Psychocandy and three early singles were to revert to the band in January 2021, according to the lawsuit, with the rest of the releases following on a staggered schedule — based on their original release dates — through June 2027.
An attorney for WMG’s Rhino Entertainment responded to the band on Dec. 9, 2020, saying the label “is the owner of the copyrights throughout the world… and the notice is not effective to terminate WMG’s U.S. rights,” according to the lawsuit. The WMG attorney furthermore wrote that the band “never owned any copyrights in the recordings which (JAMC) could terminate.”
The Reids have in 2021 served two more notices, according to the lawsuit, alleging “WMG continued to exploit the Terminated Works after Jan. 8, 2021, via physical phonorecords and digital media, with impunity, and are still exploiting the recordings as of the filing of this suit.”
Cohen, the Reids’ attorney, is co-counsel on two class-action lawsuits currently pending in federal court in New York against Sony and UMG over copyright termination notices sent to those labels by several hundred recording artists, according to the news release.
The Jesus and Mary Chain currently is scheduled to perform the Darklands album in its entirety each night on a pandemic-delayed tour of the U.K. and Europe in late 2021.
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