“Jesus and Mary Chain” Fight to Reclaim Their Copyrights
Steven T. Lowe
On June 14th, 2021, James and William Reid, brothers and founding members of the Scottish alternative rock band Jesus and Mary Chain, hit Warner Music Group Corp. (“Warners”) with a $2.5 million copyright infringement suit. The Reid brothers allege that Warner refuses to acknowledge and accept the band’s notice of termination of Warners’ ownership rights to its music under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §203.
Jesus and Mary Chain was formed in 1983 in Scotland and signed to WEA Records Ltd., a predecessor of Warner Music, in March 1985. Jesus and Mary Chain’s first album, “Psychocandy,” was released in January 1986.
In January 2019, under the Copyright Act 17 U.S.C. §203, the brothers served a notice of termination to Warners to take back the rights to several songs, including the entire “Psychocandy” album, as well as other popular Jesus and Mary Chain songs, “Ambition,” “You Trip Me Up,” “Just Out Of Reach” and “Cracked.”
This “termination right” enables creators to regain songs they had assigned to Warners before the actual value of their work was known. Even though the Copyright Act allows authors — including songwriters and recording artists — to terminate grants of copyright ownership 35 years after the initial assignment, Warners did not seem to care since it basically ignored the band’s notice of termination for 17 songs.
The band then served Warners with a second notice in April of 2021, which included some additional recordings released between 1987 to 1992, which have a date of termination no later than 2025 according to the termination provisions of the Copyright Act. The band then served a third notice in June of 2021 to include two additional recordings released in 1984, which have a termination date of June 10th, 2023.
The suit includes claims of copyright infringement and seeks maximum statutory damages of $150,000 for each of the 17 works infringed, as well as the termination of the grant of rights to Warners and the future works coming up for termination.
The Reid brothers are represented by Evan S. Cohen of Cohen Music Law and Bridget B. Hirsch of Byrnes Hirsch PC.
Counsel information for Warner Music Group has not been provided at this time.
The case is James Reid et al. v. Warner Music Group Corp., case number 2:21-cv-04806, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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