January 18, 2008

Zappa Update

As previously reported by OTCS, the sole trustee of Frank Zappa's family trust (and Zappa's wife) filed suit in SDNY against Rykodisc for copyright and trademark infringement. According to the complaint:

Upon Zappa's death in 1993, the Trust acquired all rights and interest in Zappa's sound recordings. The Trust and Rykodisc entered into an agreement in 1994 granting the label certain un-released recordings. After a certain period, Rykodisc had an option to exploit those recordings retained by the Trust but submitted to the label for exploitation. (If Rykodisc did not exercise its option, the Trust could seek 3rd party exploitation, but Rykodisc would have a matching right.) Rykodisc was also granted the rights to exploit album artwork and images for the sound recordings it acquired, but it was restricted from altering the artwork.

However, according to Plaintiff, Rykodisc breached the agreement by asserting it had acquired more rights than it did, licensing various recordings for digital and vinyl distribution -- thereby diminishing the "integrity" (sound quality) of the recordings--, releasing masters it did not have the rights to, issuing misleading advertisements with regards to various compilations (e.g., "Best of..."), altering the artwork, and failing to pay mechanical royalties. Thus, in addition to breach of contract, Plaintiff brought numerous copyright and trademark claims, and a claim for accounting.

On each of its willful copyright infringement claims, the Trust seeks maximum statutory damages ($150,000).

[Zappa v. Rykodisc, Inc.; case number 08-cv-00396-WHP; filed 1/15/08]

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