Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.
Eric Wisti alerts us a case we hadn’t heard about before. You may recall a few years back how the Bed Intruder song became a huge hit, after the Autotune the News guys took an offbeat TV interview and turned it into a song. They, famously, provided some of the proceeds from that song to the interviewee, Antoine Dodson. Apparently, last year, a radio show called the Bob Rivers show sought to do something similar with an interview with a woman in Oklahoma, who goes by the name Sweet Brown (real name: Kimberly Wilkins), about a fire in her apartment complex. Here’s the original interview…
Then here’s the “No time for bronchitis” song:
And, because it’s interesting, here’s a video from a day or two later showing her general reaction, including a mention that her son had posted the video to his own Facebook page:
Months later, however, it appears that Sweet Brown decided to sue the radio program and also iTunes since the song is there. Since the article is woefully unclear on the details, I pulled up the docket, and have posted some of the key filings below. My guess is that she’s going to have a difficult time. The original lawsuit was filed without a lawyer in state court and it shows. It claims “plagiarism sampling,” “fraud,” and “negligence” — and demands $15 million. Somewhere along the way, she actually found lawyers to represent her and they filed a very different complaint that focused on Oklahoma’s publicity rights law. The case was then removed to federal court, where it belonged in the first place, and the Bob Rivers show made a compelling case for dismissal — noting that she had consented to the interview and is not a well known person, for which a right of publicity would apply. Not long after that, her lawyers sought to withdraw from the case, citing “unresolvable differences between counsel and the plaintiffs that require withdrawal of counsel,” which the court later allowed.
There was also an attempt at summary judgment that failed, when Brown failed to show that she had served “iTunes.” Of course, even if that happens, Apple, has plenty of reasonable defenses as third party service provider for why it’s not liable.
All that said, there is something about the video that feels exploitative. The Autotune the News guys made sure that Antoine Dodson got something out of his unexpected fame, and you can see why it might have made good general sense to have cut Brown in on any proceeds, even if the Bob Rivers was not legally required to do so.
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