The Jesus and Mary Chain (JAMC) are suing Warner Music Group (WMG) for copyright infringement and declaratory relief. In a lawsuit filed on June 14 in a California federal court, founding JAMC band members, brothers Jim and William Reid, along with their attorney Evan S. Cohen, claim that WMG refused to terminate its copyright ownership of the band’s earlier work, including the band’s 1985 debut Psychocandy, and are asking for $2.5 million in damages.
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The Reids, who formed JAMC in 1983 in Glasgow, Scotland, and their attorney argue that authors can ask copyright holders to terminate grants of copyright ownership 35 years following a work’s publication under Section 203 of the Copyright Act of 1976, also known as the “35-year law.”
On January 7, 2019, the Reids first sent a notice of termination to WMG for five albums—Psychocandy, Darklands (1987), the 1988 compilation Barbed Wire Kisses, Automatic, released in 1989, and Honey’s Dead from 1992, in addition to the band’s various EPs and singles. Several of JAMC’s singles and EPs had effective termination dates of January 8, 2021 with the other termination dates for releases falling within a time frame of 2022 and beyond.
By December 2020, an attorney for the Warner cable Rhino responded to the Reids and Cohen, saying “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.”
In response to the letter from Rhino, Cohen, who is also representing multiple artists in similar cases against Sony and Universal, responded:
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 U.S. 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.
The band has sent additional notices of termination to WMG in April and June of 2021, covering additional JAMC releases.