Category: Entertainment

Rapper’s Jailhouse Confessional Lyrics Used at Murder Trial

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: Khali Holmes’ Lyrics Used in Murder, Robbery Trial

“I catching slipping at the club and jack you for your necklace. **** parking lot pimping. Man I’m parking lot jacking, running through your pockets with uh ski mask on straight laughing.”

Nevada Supreme Court OK’s Use of Lyrics in Criminal Trial

The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld the murder and armed robbery conviction of rapper Deyundrea “Khali” Holmes. Prosecutors claimed at Holmes’ trial that he penned confessional lyrics while awaiting extraditions to Nevada. Those damning words (seen above) ultimately helped convince a jury to agree with the prosecution. The lyrics and the details of the murder and robbery had a lot in common.

The Murder and Robbery

Lyrics admitted at murder trial
Lyrics are Evidence at Murder Trial

According to facts brought out at trial, victim Kevin “Mo” Nelson operated a recording studio in Reno, Nevada. He also used the studio as front for drug dealing. Rapper Holmes knew of both of these details. Holmes plotted with others to steal drugs and money from Nelson. On a snowy November night, they set the scheme into motion. Accomplice Jaffar “G” Richardson called Nelson to arrange a fake meth deal. Nelson arrived shortly to the studio.

Two men wearing ski masks and black clothes (later identified as Holmes and Max Reed) attacked Nelson. Nelson’s pockets were “bunny-eared” (turned inside out) during the fight. An assailant also ripped off Nelson’s shirt and chain necklace, pistol whipped him, and then tried to drag him from the parking lot into the studio. The assailant, in a fit of rage, removed his ski mask and threatened to shoot Nelson. He then pulled the trigger. Nelson staggered, fell, and died. Reed would say that Holmes was the assailant. “Khali [Holmes] went off … and just started shooting him.”

Art Imitates Life

It’s not hard to the see the similarity between Holmes’ lyrics and the his alleged actions. This likeness surely helped convince the jury of Holmes’ guilt, too. But were Holmes’ lyrics just an artistic expression, puffing, that the jury shouldn’t have heard? The Court decided that because the lyrics were not general boasts, but included specific details of the murder and robbery, the jury should hear them. They were not so vague as to create an unfair bias against Holmes. It was up to the jury to decide whether a violent artistic expression had imitated life.

In the end, the First Amendment right to free speech is undoubtedly a treasured American principle. Holmes just likely wishes he hadn’t exercised that right.

Ari Good, JD LLM, a tax, aviation and entertainment lawyer, is the Shareholder of Good Attorneys At Law, P.A. He graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and received his LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.

Contact us toll free at (877) 771-1131 or by email to info@goodattorneysatlaw.com.

10 Tax Issues and Deductions in Producing your Own Sound Recordings

Tax Issues and Decutions for the Production of Sound Recordings

 

Planning your taxes when recording music (sound recording) is likely not a priority. It is, however, a good idea. Musicians are increasingly recording their own music and money is often an issue. With that in mind, here are 10 tax issues and deductible expenses you should know when recording your own music. (These tax issues and deductions may also apply to other creative endeavors like film-making)

1. Costs for producing “sound recordings” typically must be written off over a period of years (“Capitalized”).

The IRS mandates that costs associated with the creation and production of sound recordings are written off over a period of years. This means that you cannot deduct the entire amount of a sound mixer, for example, in the year you buy it. Rather, that cost must be spread out over a number of years. The production of sound recordings, motion picture films, and video tapes are specific examples of “tangible personal property” that cannot be deducted entirely in the year of purchase or cost.

The exact method of accounting for these costs is extraordinarily complex and is best left to a tax professional when filing your taxes. The following, however, are prime examples of purchases and costs you should keep track so that your tax professional can maximize your tax savings.

2. Home Studio/Office Expenses

Tax write off for your home studio and sound recordings
Tax Write Off for your Home Studio and sound recordings

You obviously need a location for where the recording will occur. This is where expenses for a home studio or off-site studio come into play. Whether you’re stocking and preparing the home studio for a great musical environment, or renting a studio outside the home, these costs are part of the expense in producing a sound recording. If it’s from home, you may also be able to write off part of housing expenses like rent, internet, and electricity.

3. Equipment Expenses

Need to buy a laptop to create your masterpiece? This is an equipment expense for the production of sound recording. Other examples include speakers, sound systems, printers, audio systems, amplifiers, recorders. If it’s necessary for creation of the sound recording, make sure to keep track of it.

4. Software/Program Expenses

There are may pricey music programs out there make it easier to produce music (or just are simply necessary). Don’t forget to keep track of your purchase of these programs and software.

5. Instrument Expenses

This can include common examples like guitars, drums, and keyboards that put the sound in your sound recording. It can also include associated musical supplies, like picks, drum sticks, strings, as well costs in repairing and upkeep of the instruments.

6. Promotional Expenses

This is one of the categories of expenses normally associated with music production that it’s possible to deduct in the same year. The costs with connecting an audience to your sound recording fall into the realm and can include: business cards, professional photos, CD’s, DVD’s, videos, website development and hosting, or advertisement.

7. Educational Expenses

Educational expenses cover things like: voice training, purchase of musical arrangements, music downloads and CD’s, musical publications, sheet music, or other types of coaching and lessons

8. Travel Expenses

Need to travel as part of your music production? Don’t forget to keep track of those costs and and expenses

9. Professional Expenses

Legal and accounting services may be an afterthought for smaller scale music production. It also may be necessary if you want to reap the financial and artistic rewards from your creations. Other professional expenses can include costs to be part of a musical association or trade group, as well as licensing and copyright services.

10. Labor Expenses

If you need others to help you in your creation (and not good friends working for free), the cost of this “labor” is a tax write off. Just make sure that you keep records of your payments. These labor costs cover not only the technical aspects of the sound recording production, but musicians and singers.

Ari Good, JD LLM, is an experienced Miami entertainment lawyer and aspiring musician himself who represents DJs, live musicians, fashion models, and other entertainers in copyright, licensing, and contract matters. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact Ari of Good Attorneys at Law, P.A., in Miami-Dade County at (239) 216-4106 or toll free at (877) 771-1131 or by email to info@goodattorneysatlaw.com. Visit goodattorneysatlaw.com for more information. 

Image by :: Nicolas ::

She & Them: Photographer Loses Copyright Battle Over Profits with Apple

She & Them: Photographer Loses Copyright Battle Over Profits with Apple

 

Apple’s Commercial Uses Copyrighted Image Without Permission

 

profits
She & Him Copyright Battle

A federal judge has ruled that Apple doesn’t have to share profits with a photographer over their infringing use of an image in an iPhone commercial. This lawsuit started when prominent fashion photographer Taea Thale snapped a promotional photo of the band She & Him. Hipster actress Zooey Deschenel (of TV and movie fame) is one half of the band duo and a former Apple endorser. Ms. Thale registered her copyright to the photo and then licensed it with Merge Media for band promotion. That license prohibited specifically the use of the photo to hawk other products.

Apple would later air a commercial for 2 weeks in 2010 that advertised its iPhone 3GS. The 30 second commercial was a montage of images showing the iPhone’s latest innovations, including including album cover art. 5 seconds of that commercial used Ms. Thale’s image of She & Him as part of the montage, despite Apple never getting permission to use it. When a royalty check never arrived from Apple, Ms. Thale sued the company for copyright infringement.

So What’s the Harm from Apple’s Infringement?

 

Ms. Thale’s lawsuit asked specifically for profits from Apple’s sale of iPhones that the infringing commercial promoted. The Court, however, shut this claim down. A copyright lawsuit typically complains of infringement that creates direct profits for the offender. A musician who rips off lyrics profits directly from album sales. An author who steals a plot from another writer profits directly from book sales. And a magazine that uses photos without permission profits directly from subscription sales. The facts of Ms. Thale’s case, on the other hand, could only support that Apple profited indirectly from its infringement. Apple didn’t profit by people viewing its infringing commercial (rather, it likely paid large sums to air the commercial), but could only have profited indirectly through the sale of the iPhone on the back end.

Ms. Thale’s copyright claim ultimately failed because she couldn’t prove Apple profited from its infringement. Apple’s copyright infringement was not an issue. In a claim for indirect profits, however, the plaintiff must offer concrete evidence of that profit. The Court decided in this case that the facts showed that Apple only hoped to generate iPhone sales from the commercial. Ms. Thale didn’t offer any actual proof of boosted profits and could only speculate that the commercial generated increased iPhone sales. The Court also noted a logical and reasonable argument (such as Ms. Thale’s) is still just speculation and does not add up to proof of profits. It’s not enough to show there is some relationship between the infringement and profits, there must be a cause and effect relationship between the two.

Does Apple Just Get Away with its Copyright Infringement?

 

Apple is not off the hook just yet. The Court only decided Apple doesn’t have to share profits. Ms. Thale can continue to seek damages for any actual harm that Apple’s infringement caused her (e.g. her lost profits!). This case teaches what’s necessary to make a claim when infringement creates indirect profits.

Join the discussion and leave a comment.

Ari Good, JD LLM, is an experienced Miami entertainment lawyer and aspiring musician himself who represents DJs, live musicians, fashion models, and other entertainers in copyright, licensing, and contract matters. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact Ari of Good Attorneys at Law, P.A., in Miami-Dade County at (239) 216-4106 or toll free at (877) 771-1131 or by email to info@goodattorneysatlaw.com. Visit goodattorneysatlaw.com for more information.

Image by Mindy Bond

The Six Rights of Copyright – Part V: The Right to Public Display

The Six Rights of Copyright – Part V: The Right to Public Display

 

Public Display and the Bundle of Rights That Make Up Copyright 

 

This is the fifth part in our series on what makes a Copyright, the right to public display.  The prior four rights reviewed are linked below for you to get up to speed.  To refresh, the six parts of copyright are:

To try to get behind the curtain of copyright, we’re individually exploring each of these six rights.  An understanding of each and how they operate will allow you, the creator, to be in a better position to take advantage of your copyright.

There are a couple words of caution.  First, the practical effect of these exclusive rights will depend on the type of copyrighted work (literary works, musical works, motion pictures, sound recordings, etc.).  Second, these are exclusive rights.  The law allows only the copyright holder to exercise these rights.

V: The Right to Publicly Display the Work

 

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to display or permit others to display the copyrighted work publicly. The public display right is similar to the public performance right, except that it is applicable to public “display” rather than a performance.  This right applies to musical works (the lyrics, composition, and arrangement), but not to sound recordings (a particular version of a musical work).

The Right to Public Display Protects what People can See

 

Right to Public Display
Sheet music on public display

A public display of copyrighted means to show a visual copy of the work to others.  This covers individual images (stills) from a film, reproductions of paintings and drawings, sheet music from a musical works, or photos from other performance pieces.  Public display can occur directly or indirectly through the use of film, slides, or television.  It’s important to bear in mind what is a pubic display vs. a private display.  In general, it’s a private display if you’re showing a work to a small circle of family and friends.  It’s a public display when the showing goes beyond that small circle of family and friends.  See the prior article on the right to public performance for more detail.  A museum exhibit, a television show, or transmission vis the internet are good examples of public displays.

Limitations on the Right to Public Display

 

An important limitation on the right to public display covers the situation when a person buys a lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work. Under this scenario, the owner of the copy can display it directly (e.g. the buyer of a copy of a DaVinci painting can display in their office).  The owner can also display it indirectly, but only one image at a time (e.g. the buyer of a music video cannot display the entire video, only a still).

The ubiquitous Fair Use exception to copyright protection can come into play for the public display right, too.  Other limitations to the right of public display are out there, but are beyond the scope of this article.

            – Ari Good, Esq.

Ari Good, JD LLM, is an experienced Miami entertainment lawyer and aspiring musician himself who represents DJs, live musicians, fashion models, and other entertainers in copyright, licensing, and contract matters.  For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact Ari of Good Attorneys at Law, P.A., in Miami-Dade County at (239) 216-4106 or toll free at (877) 771-1131 or by email to info@goodattorneysatlaw.com.  Visit goodattorneysatlaw.com  for more information.

Image by Josh Gross

Bieber and Usher Not Feeling the Love over $10 Million Copyright Lawsuit

The Music Pitch

Songwriters Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton have filed a $10 million copyright lawsuit against Justin Bieber and Usher over their hit single, “Somebody to Love.”  This sordid ditty begins back in 2008 when Copeland and Overton claim they first recorded the song for Copeland’s album, “My Story II,” and registered the copyright.  Music scouts Sangreel Media, in a conference call with Copeland, then pitched their copyrighted music to Jonetta Patton, Usher’s mother.  This presentation led to Patton telling Copeland that Usher wanted Copeland to re-record the album and tour with him.  But Copeland never from Patton again and Sangreel Media never returned the copies of his music.

The Copyright Infringement

Bieber copyright infringement
Bieber and the Law

Fast forward to 2010 and when Overton first heard Justin Bieber’s version of the song on the radio.  Overton contacted Copeland believing their song had been “clearly copied.”  Their copyright lawsuit claims that Usher and other songwriters directly copied “Somebody to Love” and tried to pass if off as their own.  This occurred after Patton never followed up on her offer for Copeland to tour with Usher and Sangreel Media never returned copies of his music.  Usher uploaded the demo track to YouTube by February 2010, but did not use it for his album.  He instead offered it Bieber, a YouTube sensation at the time working on his first full-length album.  The lawsuit alleges Bieber agreed to record the infringing version of “Somebody to Love” and Usher provided the background vocals.  The song was an immediate hit and Usher went on to release a remix with him singing lead and Bieber performing backup.

“Somebody to Love,” ultimately, helped propel Bieber up the charts.  He performed it at the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards, the Today Show, and other television appearances.  It also became a backbone for Bieber’s “Believe” tour.

The Lawsuit

Copeland and Overton ‘believe’ many similarities exist between their version and Bieber’s according to the lawsuit.  This includes opening lyrics that are nearly identical and the same beat pattern.  They claim that that Bieber’s copyright infringing song has been exploited through the sale of albums and singles, but also through the sale of sheet music and live concert performances.

Their lawsuit demands $10 million in compensation from Bieber, Usher, Usher’s mother, and others.  They also want punitive damages on top of the $10 million because of the heinous nature of the copyright infringement.  Copeland and Overton have stated that they are not willing to settle the lawsuit unless it’s proven in court that they are owed less, too.

A big payday awaits if Copeland and Overton can prove their copyright infringement claims in court.  The lawsuit also shows the importance of songwriters and composers registering the copyright to your music.

–          Ari Good, Esq.

Ari Good, JD LLM, a tax, aviation and entertainment lawyer, is the Shareholder of Good Attorneys At Law, P.A.  Ari Mr. Good received his BA, With Distinction, from the University of Michigan in 1993.  He graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and received his LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.  Ari represents DJs, live musicians, fashion models and other entertainers in copyright, licensing and contract matters.

Image by Mt. T in DC