Texas intellectual property owners worry that their work will be used without their permission and that they will not be paid for it. This fear is only heightened after a recent court decision overturning most of a previous verdict that had awarded record producer Quincy Jones over $9 million for the unauthorized use of his work.
Jones had filed a lawsuit against the estate of Michael Jackson. The two had collaborated frequently when the pop star was alive. Here, the lawsuit alleged that two of Jones’ songs were used in a Jackson concert movie and a Cirque du Soleil production. The trial court agreed with Jones and awarded him damages. However, Jackson’s estate appealed the verdict.
The appeals court threw out almost $7 million of the initial verdict. The court said that Jackson’s estate did not owe money for two of Jones’ songs that were used. The contract that Jones had with Jackson included payment for “video shows” that included his songs. Jones had argued that the use of his songs in a movie was the type of “video show” for which he was to be paid. The jury had agreed, but the appeals court overturned the verdict. The appeals court did not disturb the part of the verdict that required Jackson’s estate to pay $3.5 million for the unauthorized use of the master recordings of certain songs.
Business contracts need to be airtight when they are signed. Here, the problem may have resulted from the use of a vague term such as “video shows” that resulted in Jones not receiving what he felt was due. Sometimes, terms of contracts have two different meanings, and a lawsuit is necessary to figure out what each party’s rights are. In these cases, a business litigation attorney might be critical to argue their client’s position in court.