The Jesus & Mary Chain have filed a copyright infringement suit against Warner Music, "based upon the refusal of WMG to allow JAMC to terminate grants of copyright interests 35 years after the initial release of the JAMC’s albums," including their 1985 debut album, Psychocandy. The suit seeks "statutory damages for willful copyright infringement in the amount of $2.55 million."

This lawsuit involves Section 203 of the Copyright Act of 1976, which is also known as the "35 Year Law." It "allows recording artists to terminate grants of rights that they made to record companies, 35 years after publication of the works, and restores ownership of the US copyright in the sound recordings to the artists who recorded them." This is what allowed Gang of Four to get rights back to their early material and release it as a box set on Matador earlier this year.

The lawsuit claims that Warner Music have so far "willfully and stubbornly" refused to comply with JAMC's Notice of Termination in regards to their five albums for the label -- Psychocandy, 1987’s Darklands, the 1988 compilation Barbed Wire Kisses, 1989’s Automatic, and 1992’s Honey’s Dead -- as well as a few singles. Some of these, like their early singles and Psychocandy, passed their termination dates in January.

In December of 2020, an attorney for Warner label Rhino responded, “WMG is the owner of the copyrights throughout the world in each of the sound recordings comprising the Noticed Works, and the Notice is not effective to terminate WMG’s U.S. rights," claiming that William Reid, Jim Reid and former JAMC bassist Douglas Hart had agreed that “[WMG predecessor] WEA was the ‘maker’ of the Noticed Works and the first owner of the copyright in the Noticed Works” upon signing to WEA. “As a result, you never owned any copyrights in the recordings which you could terminate."

In a statement, JAMC’s lawyer Evan S. Cohen said, "Our copyright law provides recording artists and songwriters with a valuable, once-in-a-lifetime chance to terminate old deals and regain their creative works after 35 years. This ‘second chance’ has always been a part of our copyright law. In this case against WMG, the label has refused to acknowledge the validity of any of the Notices of Termination served by The Jesus and Mary Chain, and has completely disregarded band’s ownership rights. Despite the law returning the US rights to the band, WMG is continuing to exploit those recordings and thereby willfully infringing upon our clients’ copyrights. This behavior must stop. The legal issues in this suit are of paramount importance to the music industry.”

You can read the lawsuit in full here.


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