Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lessons In Protecting Your Production - Producer Dr. Dre

What up hip hop/rap producers and artists !

When it comes to the music business, you may have noticed that the genres of hip hop and rap music are especially susceptible to music industry legal troubles. Usually it comes in the form of a copyright infringement lawsuit. Most of the time, it's because of "samples" that have not been cleared or licenses not being properly authorized on a song that hits mainstream and takes off.

For all you rap music business entrepreneurs out there, I would like to share this little tidbit I picked up from following a lawsuit in the news. This lawsuit involves one of my favorite producers and of course the lovely Mary J Blidge, whom, any way you slice it is an amazing R & B singer. The song in question is the smash hit "Family Affair" by Mary J Blidge produced by Dr. Dre.

First let me give you some details pertaining to this particular case. In January, a suit was filed by James White, the manager of rap artist Benevolence. According to Benevolence's manager Mr. White, Universal Music Group (UMG) had received a copyright-protected demo of the rap artist in 2001. According to the plaintiffs, Mary J Blidge's hit single "Family Affair" strikingly resembles a track done by Benevolence on his demo, entitled "Party Aint Crunk".

Originally the plaintiff's had named producer Dr.Dre as the culprit in this copyright infringement case. However, it was later discovered that Dr.Dre could not have been implicated due to his style of producing. Dr. Dre organizes a whole group of musicians to lay down tracks for his productions.

Here's a smart tip I picked up from Dr.Dre (or at least his bad ass music business attorneys).
Since Dre always has musicians in the studio to produce with, the courts decided that Dr.Dre could not be held personally responsible for the copyright infringement because of "lack of personal jurisdiction". This is a grey area in the music industry. Basically this means that Dr.Dre could not have been personally responsible for the infringement because the beat was created by himself and musicians that could testify to being apart of the creative process.

So who is actually responsible for the copyright infringement ? Since the doc works with a group of musicians to produce an original new track, it was found that the real bad guys in this one are Mary J Blidge's team of staff writer's at UMG. Mary J's name was also recently dropped from the lawsuit, as this copyright infringement claim has now landed on the desk of those actually responsible.

Rap artists should always be weary of sending any demo's to the major labels, especially if you have not copyrighted your material. Protecting your copyrights in this digital age can be difficult and can sometimes require a team of people to do so. You will notice that Benevolence and his manager waited long enough to file the lawsuit. This is also a very intelligent move. Whenever you're copyrights have been infringed, you should wait until the song becomes big enough of a hit before taking any legal action, or else you would be suing for peanuts instead of big bucks, which may leave you stuck with the legal costs that would make the whole lawsuit pointless. In my opinion, ff you are going to sue it should be for some big money.

Have you ever sent un-protected work to a major label in hopes of getting signed, only later to find a new hit distributed by that label sounding quite identical to your own work ? If so please leave some comments, I would love to discuss it.

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