Coles v Wu-Tang Prods., Inc., 2011 NY Slip Op 00789 (1st Dep't Feb. 10, 2011)
The appellate division modified the trial' court's award to plaintiff by 25% of the net royalty payments received by defendant Wu-Tang Productions.
The action was for the payment of royalties for musical compositions co-written by plaintiff. The Court found that the documentary evidence established that Wu-Tang was entitled to retain 25% of the net royalty payments it received from Careers-BMG Music Publishing, Inc. (BMG) before paying plaintiff his share. Pursuant to the agreement between plaintiff and Wu-Tang, plaintiff conveyed an undivided 50% percent interest in the copyrights in those compositions to Wu-Tang, and, with plaintiff's consent, Wu-Tang transferred 50% percent of its interest in the copyrights to BMG. Thus, Wu-Tang retained a 25% interest in the copyrights.
Additionally, the record supported the trial court's determination that plaintiff, as a lyricist of the compositions, and defendant producer of the music, regarded themselves as joint authors sharing equally in the ownership of a joint work. Thus, the court properly granted plaintiff leave to conform the complaint to the evidence presented at trial by adding a claim against the producer for his unauthorized receipt of a 50% producer's fee
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