Five Ridiculous Music Lawsuits
David Byrne celebrated a legal victory this week against former Florida governor Charlie Crist, who used Byrne's song Road To Nowhere in a campaign last year without permission. Along with pocketing an undisclosed sum of cash, Byrne's victory led to Crist releasing a stammering, videotaped apology.
As odd as this story seems, it's easily one of the tamest examples of a music industry lawsuit. When music disputes end up in court, things usually get more ridiculous than a wimpy governor making amends on YouTube.
We run down a few of our favorite cases from over the years.
5. The Beastie Boys versus Some Bitter Jazz Guy
In 2002, jazz flutist James Newton sued the Beastie Boys for using three notes from his composition "Choir" in their song "Pass the Mic." Although the Beasties paid Newton's record label for the sample, Newton argued that he deserved songwriting credit and a boatload of royalties, too.
What was this hit-making and miraculous sample, you ask?
You know that flute riff during the millisecond pause right before Pass the Mic's last break beat? It sounds something like this: "Nee-wee."
Do you remember that contribution to popular music, so significant that it turned millions of kids onto the flute and sparked a worldwide flute renaissance?
We don't either. The judge was similarly unmoved, ruling that Newton would have to live with his original payment of a thousand bucks and a lifetime of ignominy as the guy who sued Mike D.
4. Thomas Dolby versus K-Fed
In 2005, Thomas Dolby sued would-be rapper Kevin Federline for sampling his hit, "She Blinded Me with Science."
Although Federline would later admit that he borrowed elements of Dolby's work without permission, we were surprised that Dolby bothered with a lawsuit in the first place. He and K-Fed have so much in common they could have easily resolved their beef outside of court.
K-Fed's music features him repeating a vapid catchphrase through auto tune ("Popozão") while Dolby's big hit featured him repeating his own vapid catchphrase through a Vocoder ("She blinded me...with science!"). Both men spend a lot of time on VH1, with Federline appearing on Celebrity Fit Club and Dolby's video popping up on all those irritating Best of the 80s shows.
Both men also fraternize with a marginalized subculture that the public despises -- K-Fed with back-up dancers, and Dolby with Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
Rather than lawyer up, these two should have held a poolside beer summit at K-Fed's pad and embarked on a musical collaboration. A nice "friends with benefits" situation could have emerged. In exchange for producing his new record, K-Fed could have introduced tech dweeb Dolby to some real-life, non-webcam girls.