ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Thursday, June 3, 2021

What the World Has Lost Because the Movie "Bloomer Girls" Was Never Produced

Thanks to Richard Carlson of the South Texas College of Law Houston, we can share this recording of the original Broadway production of "Bloomer Girls," the musical.  

Nearly 80 years later, this song still slaps.

For another musical take on Parker v. 20th Century Fox, this one from Professor Richard Craswell, you can check out this earlier post.

June 3, 2021 in Famous Cases, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 26, 2021

Weekend Frivolity: My Bad Bunny Mask and a Student-Composed Limerick

I am increasingly aware of how dated my attempts at pop-cultural references are.  When I started teaching law in 2004, I could assume that Simpsons references and Seinfeld references would be met with some smiles of recognition.  That seems to be less the case now.  I don't even know who the famous pop stars or movie stars are these days.  My students seem to watch a lot of reality television shows, and I am not familiar with any of them.  They, for some reason, do not share my enthusiasm for Star Trek or Breaking Bad.  We had a moment of shared ground this week having to do with shrimp tails in breakfast cereal, but how long will that last?

Desperate, I asked my students the other day what musicians they liked.  Alexis Benitez recommended Bad Bunny.  He shared a video, and thus I was not completely ignorant of the young artist when he won a Grammy soon thereafter.  Now that I am an unofficial member of the Bad Bunny fan club, Alexis and another 1L Haidee Macedo gifted me a Bad Bunny mask, along with a Limerick commemorating my introduction to Bad Bunnydom.  Here they are:

Bad Bunny

The gift is especially sweet because Alexis and Haidee are in different sections, and in our COVID world, our seven (count 'em!) sections of 1Ls rarely get to interact with one another, and almost never get to meet each other in the flesh.  How charming then that a mask of all things should bring together these two 1Ls during this pandemic.  

It feels like we are nearing the end of this experience.  But until we get there, you can expect to see me in my brand new Bad Bunny mask!

Bad Bunny, can you take us out?


March 26, 2021 in Music, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Of Ming Dynasty Bowls and Chelsea Doors

Ever since we broke the news of a man who bought a man who bought a valuable 15th-century bowl for $35 (by linking to stories about the incident), the Internet has picked up on the story and its happy conclusion, with a sale of the bowl for over $700,000 at auction.  We posed the non-musical question of whether the doctrine of mistake would apply.  Probably not.

Chelsea Hotel By Velvet
Photo Credit: Velvet 
CC BY-SA 3.0

Friend of the blog John Wladis reminds us of the similar and yet strikingly different case of the Chelsea doors.  According to this account, Jim Georgiou, a former resident of the Chelsea Hotel, went into the hotel as it was being renovated to use the restroom.  He noticed that the workers were discarding the old doors, which frankly appear unspectacular.  But Georgiou knew that famous artists and celebrities had stayed in the rooms concealed behind those doors, so he rescued them, connected the doors to the celebrities, and then arranged to have them sold at auction, where they fetched over $400,000.  Georgiou, who was homeless at the time that he salvaged the doors, shared half the proceeds with City Harvest, which helps feed the indigent in the city.  

The New York Times had a fine piece on the unique status of the hotel and the significance of the doors as souvenirs from various cultural moments now swept away by the currents of history.  Perhaps the lucky yard-sale enthusiast will be inspired by Georgiou's example and donate some of the proceeds from his find to a worthy cause . . . .

March 23, 2021 in Current Affairs, In the News, Music | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 8, 2021

Promises, Promises on Cardozo, Barry Manilow, and Van Halen

CardozoI am teaching Jacob & Youngs v. Kent this week, which makes me happy.  I am always happy when I get to teach a Cardozo opinion just like I would be happy if I were teaching in the humanities, and this was the week we get to discuss James Joyce's "The Dead."  Always happy to have new insights on the case, and the Promises, Promises episode on the case is full of them.  

For one thing, the hosts point out, in passing, that Kent might have had a special yearning for Reading pipe, because it had a special status.  He longed to shower every morning in water coming through his Reading pipes, the Manolo Blahnik of pipes.  Knowing that the water he was using was flowing through the high-status Reading pipes delighted him, and he so he would sing Barry Manilow's "Looks Like We Made It" every morning as he exfoliated.  Yes, I know, that's totally not what that song is about.  It doesn't help.  The hosts' brief, anachronistic mention of the Manilow song planted an earworm, leaving me no choice but to exorcise it by sharing it with you.

In the alternative, Professors Wilkinson-Ryan and Hoffman entertain the possibility that the Reading pipes were Kent's brown M&Ms, a topic on which we have previously posted.  If that were the case, however, the time to object to the Reading pipes was before completion.  If the building is otherwise sound, the lack of Reading pipe does not serve the purpose that the brown M&Ms allegedly served.

March 8, 2021 in Commentary, Contract Profs, Famous Cases, Music, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, February 19, 2021

Weekend Frivolity: Sarah Dooley Explains Infancy Doctrine in "Stupid Things"

Dooley  HeartbreakReaders of this blog are probably tired of me taking every possible opportunity to encourage people to download Sarah Dooley's new album, Is This Heartbreak?   I know.  It's tiresome.  But Sarah is the daughter of my fabulous former colleague, Laura Dooley, and I can honestly say that Sarah is to music what Laura is to Civil Procedure.  I can also honestly say that I don't know what that means.

I've decided to turn over a new leaf.  Today, I'm pushing people to buy Sarah's first album, Stupid Things. And the infancy doctrine has given me a reason to do so.  Readers of this blog are familiar with the infancy doctrine, which lets people under age 18 disaffirm their contracts, often without any adjustment for depreciation or damage (unless caused by the infant's tortious conduct).  Seems nuts, especially if the contracts are basically fair and the infant gets to enjoy whatever was bought without having to compensate the seller for depreciation.  Sarah's lyrics on the title track explain why this might make sense from a policy perspective:

Dooley  StupidYou're allowed to do stupid things
When you're young
People look the other way
It's okay
At least that's what people say
You're allowed to try pot
You're allowed to get shot
You're allowed to do anything once
Cause you're young
Yeah you're young
Yeah you're young

Public policy analysis you can dance to.

February 19, 2021 in Commentary, Miscellaneous, Music, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Extended Holiday Weekend Frivolity: Holiday Greetings via Sarah Dooley

Beautiful rendition of this classic, fittingly sombre for this very odd version of the holiday.

Sarah Dooley is the daughter of my former colleague, Laura Dooley, currently at Touro Law.  Sarah's new album, Is this Heartbreak? is available, for example, here.

We wish everyone a safe holiday with best wishes that the vaccines will facilitate raucous celebrations some time in the coming year!

December 24, 2020 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Long Weekend Frivolity: The Amazing Things One Finds on Twitter!

In this Italian hit song from 1972, you will hear what sounds like unaccented American English lyrics but is in fact gibberish.  Fascinating.  Thanks Kim Krawiec!

But if you listen to Kim's Taboo Trades podcast on blood you will hear accented English (from Nicola Lacetera and Mario Macis) that is anything but gibberish!


November 27, 2020 in Contract Profs, Music, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, November 15, 2020

More Frivolity: Moving an Icehouse? No Promises

From the sublime (Joni Mitchell) to the ridiculous.

Mitchill v. Lath is about a collateral oral agreement to remove an icehouse from a neighboring property as part of a real estate transaction.  I make much of the fact that my students probably have no idea what an icehouse is.  I knew there was a band called Icehouse.  Actually, I knew of two bands called Icehouse.  I play short excerpts from each band and invite the students to imagine how annoying it would be to have them on the neighboring property. 

But I didn't know until now that one of the bands has a song called "No Promises."  Enjoy, even though it does not seem that the promise at issue in contractual:

h/t Edward Swaine

November 15, 2020 in Famous Cases, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 13, 2020

Weekend Frivolity: Joni Mitchell on the Parol Evidence Rule

We have it on good authority that Joni Mitchell's song "California" is about the parol evidence rule.  When she says that Paris is "too old and cold and settled in its ways," she is really talking about New York.  When she says "cold," she is referencing the icehouse in Mitchill v. Lath, when she says "old," she is noting that Mitchill is an old case, and the fact that her name is Joni Mitchell is a dead giveaway, even though she tried to fool us by varying the spelling.  The lyric "Oh, but California . . ." clearly indicates her preference for Judge Traynor's approach to the parol evidence rule.  Listen for yourself:

November 13, 2020 in Contract Profs, Famous Cases, Music | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Weekend Frivolity: Sarah Dooley Album Release Party

One of the best things about teaching at Valparaiso University Law School was getting to work with Laura Dooley, a fantastic, teacher, scholar, and colleague.  In addition, Laura comes with two lovely daughters, one of whom is the supremely talented Sarah Dooley.  Below is a video highlighting Sarah's talents as a singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and comedian.  If you like what you see, please support Sarah's art and Laura's retirement by watching Sarah' album release show tonight!


October 23, 2020 in Film Clips, Miscellaneous, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Weekend Frivolity: Answering a Student's Question

One of my students asked me why so many of my hypotheticals involve cats, rather than dogs.  We ran out of time before I could complete my answer, so here's the full version:


October 11, 2020 in Miscellaneous, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Weekend Frivolity: Yet Another Pandemic-Induced Hamilton Variant



July 25, 2020 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Blog Mourns the Passing of John Lewis

. . . and celebrates his memory

July 18, 2020 in Current Affairs, Miscellaneous, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Weekend Frivolity: Music to Quarantine by from Sarah Dooley

One of the great benefits of being at a small law school in a small town is that you get to know not only your colleagues but also their delightful and talented children.  Among the most delightful and talented is the incomparable Sarah Dooley, daughter to my former colleague, Laura Dooley.  Sarah is trying to continue to entertain us from her small New York apartment.

If you enjoy this video and would like to see more content from Sarah, you can follow here on Instagram or on Twitter at @iamsarahdooley


May 17, 2020 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Weekend Frivolity: Some Good News

If you are like us, you could use some good news.  Fortunately, John Krasinski is providing it.  You can watch the first episode on your own.  We're Hamilton fans (spoiler alert!) so we're sharing the second.


May 10, 2020 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Interpretation and Parol Evidence Issues in Quincy Jones Case

Quincy JonesIn 2013, as we reported here, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame producer Quincy Jones (right) brought suit seeking $30 million from MJJ production.  Jones alleged that he was entitled royalties and remix fees in connection with his role in making three Michael Jackson records, Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad.  Jones alleged that MJJ had violated his contractual rights by using music from those records  in the posthumous Jackson documentary This Is It and in two Cirque du Soleil shows.  In 2017, a Los Angeles jury awarded Jone $9.4 million in royalties in connection with "This Is It."

This week, a California appellate court reduced that award by $6.9 million, finding that the trial court had inappropriately allowed the jury to decide issues of contractual interpretation that should have been decided by the court. The appellate court found that the jury misinterpreted the extent of Jones' entitlement to payment under the contract and that some of the claims were too speculative to be a basis for recovery.

The appellate court first held that § 4(a) of Jones's Producer Agreements entitled him only to a 10% royalty fee on record sales.  Jones was not entitled to licensing income, nor was he entitled to fees for remixing Masters.  In the alternative, the appellate court held that remix damages were too speculative to be recoverable.  

JacksonstvshowAccording to the court, the Producer Agreements gave Jones a right of first opportunity to remix the Masters, and Michael Jackson (with his family, left) had paid Jones a share of all license fees for use of Masters for some time.  However, between 1993 and 2008 Jackson released remixes without offering Jones the opportunity to participate.  After Jackson's death in 2009, the remixes of the Masters were used in This is It, which grossed $500 million.

The appellate court's interpretation of ¶ 4(a) turned on its determination that extrinsic evidence proffered by Jones was inadmissible.  The trial court erred in permitting the jury to consider that evidence, and the jury's erroneous award was informed by that inadmissible evidence.  The court held that the Producer Agreement did not require Jackson to pay Jones remixing fees and that extrinsic evidence revealed no latent ambiguity regarding that term.

Hat tip: Rachel Arnow-Richman

May 8, 2020 in Celebrity Contracts, Music, Recent Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Weekend Frivolity: Part of the World

Some of our readers might recognize this new feature of the Blog, "Weekend Frivolity" is ripped off form the frivolity segment of the National Security Law Podcast.  In this case, imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.  If you aren't currently subscribing to the podcast, you should be, even if you aren't interested in National Security Law.  It is fun to listen to Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck argue about just about anything.

I'm tipping my hat extra hard in the post because I discovered this video on Bobby's Twitter feed.  It has something of an Austin feel to it, but I'm afraid I don't know if the Bar & Grill responsible for this video is an Austin joint.  Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can enlighten me in the comments!


May 3, 2020 in Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Music, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Madonna Sued for Late Concert Start

"There's something that you all need to understand," Madonna said during her Las Vegas concert, "and that is, that a queen is never late."

Maybe so, but concertgoer Nate Hollander is suing her and concert promoter Live Nation for breach of contract. Hollander claims that first announcing the concert start time to be 7.30 p.m. and then changing it to 10.30 is a breach of contract.  No refund has been offered, he alleges, and attempts to resell the tickets will not make up for the money lost as tickets have now "suffered an extreme loss of value" because of the time change, Hollander further alleges.  Each ticket cost approx. $340. Images

Does Hollander have a point?  For those who are not night owls, it is certainly an inconvenience to have to be out and about until mightnight if they had hoped to hit the sack earlier.  Sure, a big name like Madonna will, hopefully, cause a perhaps much-needed adrenaline rush, but what about having to pay babysitters for very late hours worked, increased difficulty getting home on public transportation or shared rides that late, etc.

Notwithstanding the fact that concert tickets to see big names often increase dramatically in value on the secondary market if the show is sold out (if it is even contractually possible to resell the tickets), it does not seem, however, like any true loss had been suffered here.  Madonna still performed and thus provided the benefit of the bargain even if not perfectly so.  The tickets were still honored.  It was still a night out in Las Vegas.  There really was no reason to have to resell tickets, so any value allegedly lost in the deal is speculative.

For law teaching purposes, this case may, though, still be interesting when discussing material v. minor breach with our students.

November 11, 2019 in Celebrity Contracts, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Taylor Swift to Re-record Her First Albums in Contractual Dispute

For artists, master recordings — the original recordings of musicians' work — are vital musically, historically and financially.  In most situations, labels own those masters.  But many musicians, both prominent and independent ones, have tried to hang on to their masters.  As Prince famously told Rolling Stone back in 1996, "If you don't own your masters, your master owns you."

Taylor Swift is the most recent major artist to want to own her own masters, but can’t because of earlier contractual provisions.  This will change with her newest album, Lover, which she will own outright.  The masters of her first five albums were and are, per her contracts with Big Machine, owned by that company and, now, its contractual assignees.  However, Taylor has stated that “my contract says that starting November 2020 … I can record albums 1 through 5 all over again — I'm very excited about it. ... I think artists deserve to own their work. I just feel very passionately [sic] about that." Unknown

Of course, Swift now also has significant contractual bargaining powers that she did not while an early teenaged recording artist.  Still, girl power!  Does this make her a “nasty woman”?..  And if so, isn't this a compliment?!

August 22, 2019 in Celebrity Contracts, Commentary, Current Affairs, In the News, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 14, 2019

The challenges of licensing music

This isn’t, strictly speaking, about contracts, I guess. But it is about a consent decree, which is at heart a document that binds parties to terms. The Department of Justice has announced that it is reviewing the antitrust consent decree that governs ASCAP and BMI, the two major performing rights organizations used by songwriters and music publishers. Because ASCAP and BMI control so much of the music licensing market, they have been governed by a consent decree for several decades, with the Department of Justice worried about the competitive effects of their near-monopoly over music licensing.

I thought, therefore, that maybe it was time for me to share my friend's Music Licensing Experience.

The music copyright holders keep noting that piracy is a major problem. However, piracy tends to decrease if you make it easier for people to gain legal access to the work in the question. For some time now, studies have shown that people will pay for content, if they are given a feasibly legal way to do it.

A friend of mine was starting a noncommercial podcast. Podcasts are all the rage now. They’re low-cost and have few barriers to entry, and recording equipment is so cheap and easy to come by these days, basically anyone can have a podcast. I am frequently asked by students for information about using music on podcasts. They’ve heard, of course, that any length of time less than thirty seconds is “automatic fair use.”

So my friend’s got this noncommercial podcast and they want to use, in a single episode, two separate clips of the same copyrighted song. Together, the clips total less than forty seconds. My friend, who is not a lawyer, was inclined to do what so many lawyers do, and just take the risk and use the song. “But no!” I protested. “You know me, a copyright lawyer! You should properly license the song!”

I had, in actuality, never licensed a song before. But, I thought, how hard can it be? It shouldn’t be hard, right? Wouldn’t it be in the best interest of the music copyright holders to make it relatively easy for this kind of use to be licensed? Especially given the apparent stance BMI takes that there is no way for you to use music without a license.


(Fair use? What fair use?)

I told my friend that either BMI or ASCAP would probably have the rights to the song, and they should just ask for a license through the right one. So they looked into it. BMI ended up being the organization to contact, and my friend found a literal tab for Podcasts on the BMI website, so they contacted BMI.

I thought that would be the end of it for my friend, but BMI’s response, unfortunately, was not very helpful. BMI said that the only license it offers is a blanket license, so my friend could not license a single work the way they wanted. The blanket license would be an annual license of almost four hundred dollars a year – a lot of money for a noncommercial podcast that wanted to use a grand total of forty seconds of music from a single song. But, BMI informed them, that license would get my friend access to fourteen million songs!

The problem: My friend didn’t want access to fourteen million songs. My friend wanted one song. Also, I’m pretty sure that BMI is actually required by that consent decree currently under review to offer per-song licensing rates. See Section IX.C ("[BMI] shall not, in connection with any offer to license by it the public performance of musical compositions by music users other than broadcasters, refuse to offer a license . . . for the performance of such specific (i.e., per piece) musical compositions, the use of which shall be requested by the prospective licensee."); see also United States v. Broad. Music, Inc., 275 F.3d 168, 178 n.2 (2d Cir. 2001) ("[T]he per piece license . . . is explicitly required in Section IX(C).”). My friend told me what BMI said, and I told my friend that maybe they should try again, maybe they weren’t clear the first time. So they wrote back to BMI, clarifying that they wanted a per-song rate.

BMI responded saying that it was not capable of providing my friend with the licensing rights they wanted. Despite the fact that it had been very willing to provide my friend with a license for several hundred dollars in the previous email, it now took the stand that it did not have the ability to provide rights for a song used within a podcast, and my friend had to contact a different entity. I don’t know if I’m more alarmed by BMI trying to sell my friend a license that wouldn’t actually cover their use, or BMI lying about whether it could sell them a license that would cover their use.

At any rate, BMI at least provided my friend with the contact information for another entity, which my friend contacted. But that entity wrote back and said it was not the right entity and provided the contact information for yet another entity. Which never wrote back to my friend’s request at all.

So, in the end, that’s how music licensing goes if you’re a little guy, I guess: It doesn’t. My friend lost a little bit of faith in the U.S. copyright legal system as a result of their experience, and that definitely harms all of us. And as we’re thinking about the music business in the context of the consent decree, maybe we should also think about the people who use music. Because, sometimes, as studies keep showing, they’d really love to pay the artist, they literally can’t find the way to do it.

(Could my friend’s use qualify as fair use? I am offering no legal opinion on that. What I will say is that, fair use doesn’t stop you from getting a DMCA notice.)

June 14, 2019 in Commentary, Current Affairs, In the News, Music, True Contracts, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)