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Industry Profile: Michael O. Crain

— By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)

This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Michael O. Crain, Owner of Crain Law Group, LLC.

Athens, Georgia attorney Michael Crain represents music and film-affiliated clients in matters involving intellectual property, music law, publicity rights and trademark law, commercial transactions, and civil litigation

In the contentious legal world of federal and state litigation in the United States, he’s a specialist in procedure, including discovery practice, motion practice, and jury and bench trials; specifically focusing on trademark, copyright, and publicity rights strategy, enforcement, and litigation.

Among his set of current clients are: Frank Sinatra Enterprises, Nat King Cole Estate, Peggy Lee Estate, Humphrey Bogart Estate, Gary Cooper Estate, The Farrah Fawcett Foundation, and Danny Kaye Estate.

In 2005,Crain achieved national prominence in law entertainment circles as the lead plaintiff’s counsel in a complex copyright, trademark and publicity rights action brought by the Jerry Garcia Estate against the national restaurant franchisor, Moe's Southwestern Grill for the unauthorized use of Garcia’s intellectual property rights.

Other clients in the case, whom Crain came to represent, included the estates of John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Barry White, George Harrison, and Miles Davis.

The small staff Crain works with on a daily basis, for both transactional and litigation matters, include an attorney, Cash V. Morris; and his assistant/paralegal Deborah Barnes. When necessary, on large litigation matters or cases filed in other states, Crain associates with local counsel experienced in intellectual property or entertainment litigation.

Crain graduated Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia in 1992; and received a Bachelor of Business Administration--Banking & Finance degree from the University of Georgia in 1989.

What exactly is your role with your clients?

I would say that, in a nutshell, my practice is helping the rights holders of these kinds of legacy estates protect--really protect--the legacies under their charge in the marketplace. I help prevent infringements or I deal with infringements of their intellectual property rights, and help them with transactions going forward where licensees or business partners want to engage in legitimate business that utilize the intellectual property rights of my clients. They (estates) screen out what they are interested in doing; turn down what they are not interested in doing; and I’m really helping them do that, and do any business going forward.

When you first meet with members of a celebrity’s estate what questions do you ask?

My first question is, “What are your goals? What do you want to do? What are you looking for?” If we find that there’s a match, and I can help them, the next thing is defining who owns the rights. Researching who owns the rights that are at issue. Who owns the master recordings?

Also finding out what rights are involved with those master recordings?

Correct. Does your artist own any publishing? If not, who owns it? Can you terminate prior transfers, and get publishing back? Where are you in negotiations with the record label, if at all, on digital sales? Are you with the label on music streaming because, at least as today, the future of music sales seem to be with streaming and downloads.

The music landscape is definitely changing.

Physical product has died out. It is all becoming digital and streaming.

What else do you ask about?

I’m also finding out who owns the publicity rights. Is that situation clean? Based on documents they (the estate) have, probate documents, has that been cleaned up already? Are the rights clearly defined? Are the family members all in agreement about those rights? Are they in agreement in going forward with what they want to do with the business, and in their goals, and so forth?

It’s really lining up the landscape. Understanding what rights are out there. Who owns them. Who controls them, and finding out if there is a consensus in moving forward in what they want to do with them in the marketplace, and what efforts they want to take in projecting those rights in the marketplace.

As you know, under the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, the author of a recording has the right to terminate the original transfer of copyright to the record company 35 years after that transfer. But “author” isn’t defined in the Act. Labels are arguing that they are the author, that the artists who created the works were employees rather than independent contractors, thus rendering the recordings works-for-hire.

Correct. That’s a really big issue right now for artists who put out recordings in 1978, 1979, and 1980. Those are the current issues.

The issue has yet to be tested in court in the U.S.?

I don’t know if any decisions have come out really taking that issue head on, but plenty of people are heading to court on that issue. I’m now in a dispute over that with a particular client with a particular record label. Without giving you the names of who either are, we think it’s crystal clear that my client is the author--the creator--of the recording, and the record label is taking the position that it was a work-for-hire and they were the author or creator. We are just getting into that dispute now.

[Under the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, the author of a recording has the right to terminate the original transfer of copyright to the record company 35 years after that transfer. If a recording was created and released in 1978 (the first effective year of the current copyright law), the author can reclaim that recording this year (2013), subject to various notice provisions.

However, it is unclear at the present time who will be defined as the “author.” At some point, a court will have to define the word “author” in this context unless there is legislation enacted by Congress defining the same.]

In essence, labels are arguing that artists were hired to produce music for them, and that the copyrights in the works were the label’s to begin with.

Still, as you know, labels usually had artists pay all recording costs.

In this particular case, all of the recording costs were recoupable out of my client.

How do labels explain charging recording costs under work-for-hire?

I’m still waiting on an explanation that is logical.

Also there were so many additional costs charged back to the artist.

And more, including breakage fees.

It’s noteworthy that with the advent of the CD, major labels took the breakage clause in older artist and production contracts, and transferred it to a new media clause.

I have yet to hear a logical explanation for that.

Are celebrity estates more vulnerable to infringement?

I’m constantly surprised to hear legal departments at very reputable, publicly-traded corporations not understand what all of the rights are that are necessary to be secured in an advertising campaign. I’ve heard general counsels within Fortune 500 companies say to me, “Well, we’ve got the copyrights to an image what else do we need? We felt we had everything before we started using this image in advertising.” I say, “Well, that’s part of what you need. It’s not everything.”

What do they need?

They need permission of the individuals within the photographs, if the jurisdiction requires it. The interesting thing about publicity rights, which makes it more complicated than some of the federal laws, is that it is governed by state law, not federal (law). So it can vary from state to state, even if a state recognizes post mortem rights of publicity, rights can vary among the states that recognize it. Like the term of years that it recognizes. The scope of the rights it recognizes. There are some states that do not recognize post mortem rights of publicity, but luckily under The Lanham Act —the federal trademark statute in the United States—there are claims to make regarding false endorsement, and false affiliation for deceased celebrity estates even if those celebrities were residents of jurisdictions that do not recognize post mortem publicity rights. It can get fairly complicated.

[The phrase Right of Publicity is attributed to Judge Jerome Frank in Haelean Laboratories, Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum case in 1953. The Right of Publicity can be defined as the right to control the commercial use of an identity—a person’s name, voice, likeness or image in order to prevent a third party from using some aspect of that identity which has market value for a commercial use that the third party should have to pay for.]

Various state courts have grappled with the parameters of the Right of Publicity. Certain states don’t allow sound-alike impersonators following the 1998 case of Bette Midler against the Ford Motor Company.

Correct. The Bette Midler case is a very famous case. There’s a similar case. A Tom Waits case (against Frito-Lay in 1992) which is a very important case in the field. Most companies recognize that when they want to engage in an advertising branding campaign or some merchandising deal that not only do they need to get permission of the copyright owner of the image or music, but they also need, in most cases, to secure the rights of the celebrity; of the performer.

As well, they have to clear the music publishing rights if music is involved.

Correct.

Are estates of celebrities targeted by infringers?

It appears that way. It appears that some infringers believe that if person is dead, “I have free rein.” I constantly see infringers take liberties that I could not imagine that they would take with living movie stars or recording artists. Unfortunately, often times, there are estate rights in the marketplace that it appears that nobody is watching, which is extremely unfortunate. I think as the world becomes flatter and business is more international with internet marketing, digital marketing, and digital sales, borders seem to becoming less and less important. That puts the onus that much more on these estates to be watchful of the marketplace because, often times, if you don’t protect your rights, and you let people infringe them at will you run the risk of losing them (rights).

A musician with an active career would also seek more extensive damages for an infringement, including for loss of record and ticket sales.

Yes, and all of my clients place a market value of their intellectual property as it is used in the marketplace. If people steal a Ferrari, they have to be willing to pay for that Ferrari. They can’t come back and say, “Well it didn’t cost you anything.” Legitimate companies pay significant money to be associated with these estates. All of my clients feel that they owe an obligation to their partners in the marketplace--legitimate licensees--to police the marketplace, and stop infringers.

What do you think of the preemptive legal strike by Robin Thicke and co-writers of “Blurred Lines” against right holders of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” and Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways” in seeking a declaration of non-infringement by a court?

It is not an unusual tool in intellectual property litigation. I was involved in a situation last year where we claimed--on the behalf a client--that we thought that a commercial act was an infringement. Before we knew it, the defendant filed suit in federal court claiming that what they did was not an infringement, and they wanted a federal court judge to make a ruling that it was not. So there are reasons why companies would risk that, and put themselves really as a defendant to begin with by asking for a declaratory judgment that what they did was not an infringement. There are various reasons why people would do that.

[Robin Thicke’s summer hit “Blurred Lines” might have been inspired by Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” and Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways” which apparently led to the folks owning the rights to those songs making noises about suing Thicke and his co-writers.

Thicke, along with "Blurred Lines" co-writers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris, Jr., filed a lawsuit on Aug. 15, 2013 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles requesting a ruling that "Blurred Lines" does not infringe on "Got To Give It Up." The lawsuit also requested a similar judgment with regard to another accusation, by Bridgeport Music Inc., that "Blurred Lines" infringed on George Clinton's "Sexy Ways."

In an interview with TMZ, Gaye's son, Marvin Gaye III said, "We’re not happy with the way that he went about doing business let alone suing us for something where he clearly got his inspiration from at the least."]

Quite an aggressive legal tactic by Robin and the co-writers..

It is as aggressive a defense as one could take, but you may do it if you think the plaintiff is going to file in a jurisdiction that may have a little less favorable climate then you may want. You may want that preemptive strike, and file it (a lawsuit) in a jurisdiction that you think may be a little more favorable of a legal climate. There are all different reasons. Or you don’t do this threat. I don’t know all the issues or motivations here, but I can see how one would think that being a huge hit, you may want to do other things with it, and you don’t want this threat of litigation tainting the value of something that you created and you feel strongly that is not infringing.

So they (lawyers representing Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris, Jr.) may want to clear the air, and the attitude may be, “We would prefer to weather a small storm now than a potentially bigger storm later” even if they think they can prevail in both. So everybody has their own reason for doing it. It’s not that uncommon, but it is a very aggressive defensive position to take. But it’s not that unusual for people to do that.

Dance music brand Ministry of Sound is suing Spotify in the UK High Court for copyright infringement claiming the company has refused to delete users’ playlists that copy its compilation albums. The case will hinge on whether the order of the songs can be copyrighted

That’s a new one for me. I don’t know where the listings came from or where they originated with the plaintiff in that case. I would have to do research before I could give an opinion whether a playlist is copyrightable. I guess the short answer is I don’t know. I also don’t know if they (Ministry of Sound) are simply claiming copyright infringement or if there are some other claims being made. I don’t know if they are raising it on UK or EU law or if there’s some US law being claimed because Spotify is based here.

I could have a whole conversation just on Spotify. I think that artists are tremendously underpaid on Spotify royalties, and they didn’t have a say on it. I like the idea of Spotify, but not how it is playing out in practice.

How about Apple’s iTunes.?

Well, I love Apple products. I use Apple products. I think they are the best in the world. What they have done to the music industry is very interesting. There are arguments that it is extremely positive, and there are arguments that it is extremely negative. It certainly better than people stealing the music, and I hope that Apple sells a million of my clients’ records. I like Apple.

Apple takes a sizable chunk of revenues from the music being sold on iTunes.

They do. And I think a download is a license. It’s not a record, and I think it should be treated by the labels with a third party license. I think that Apple treats it as a third party license.

But compensation to artists is not as a third party license.

Correct. Apple kind of sets the prices, but I believe in a free market and, if somebody can invent a better more profitable mouse trap for this, I wish that they would do it. But, until then, I much prefer buying my clients’ records on Apple than downloading them for free.

[There is considerable disagreement within the music industry over the share of royalties from digital downloads. The dispute revolves around whether a music download should result in an artist royalty payment or if the download should be regarded as licensed revenue with the artist receiving a significantly higher royalty.]

There’s plenty of your clients’ music available on internet, even from legalized services, but that music isn’t always legal in America because of coming from overseas sources. Do you try to track that repertoire down, and try to stop it from being sold in the U.S., if royalties haven’t been paid?

Yes. We are constantly doing that. Even legitimate albums like EMI Gold (the EMI label set up for re-issues of existing albums and compilations) or (albums from) EMI UK, EMI France, EMI Germany or EMI Japan that end up over here (in the United States). Even EMI can’t figure out how that is happening. And (sometimes) they didn’t pay the music publishing mechanicals that are different, based on the jurisdiction.

You have a 1995 EMI Gold CD competing at $6.99 with a legitimate EMI CD—the exact same title—for $9.99. It was brought in by an independent distributor. I don’t know if they just picked it up as a throwaway, and brought it over from London or from Paris. Were we paid on that? Anything at all? Then you get the royalty statement from the record label that is 3,000 pages, and you need a degree in nuclear physics to interpret it.

The internet is filled with infringed music, graphics, videos etc. When do you go after an infringement?

There are a lot of infringements, and we have to make decision of what do we go in strongly against, and what do we write a letter to. If something seems more deliberate and intentionally is trading off my client’s intellectual property rights, obviously, we will be far more aggressive. If it is some small mom-and-pop where it is still clearly an infringement, yet probably on a very small scale, we just politely contact them and, hopefully, get them to engage in conversation, and we educate them. Then, 99% of the time after they learn about the situation, they apologize and stop the infringements.

Every now and then, you run across small and large companies who kind of thumb their nose at you and say, “I can do this if I want to.” Then my client has to decide how we are going to address it. Often times, it ends up in litigation. But we really only do that as a last resort; if we think it is a significant infringement that is damaging to the marketplace or is damaging to one of our licensing partners or to the brand or it confuses customers. That it makes it look like my clients are associated with some product or service that we are not.

Do you have to be vigilant worldwide on infringements?

One really does. Just last month Warner Brothers contacted me about a potential Humphrey Bogart infringement in Italy. I ended up retaining for my client an Italian firm to get involved. Corresponded with the company, and they stopped the infringement. Yes, we look at all of the marketplaces as much as humanly possible and try to be vigilant in international anti-infringement efforts.

Several of your clients, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole worked in television and radio as well as in the recording industry decades ago. The opportunities for infringement with them are rather high.

Correct. Although with someone like Frank Sinatra, he went across numerous record labels as well. One of the (legal) complexities of some of the old master recordings is U.S. federal copyright law didn’t cover master audio recordings until 1972. So pre-’72 sound recordings are going to be governed by state law which is a whole complicated field in of itself; meaning state law covers chain of title issues etc. It definitely makes it complicated, and opportunities for infringement are great. The whole issue regarding free download of music, BitTorrent issues, we are constantly dealing with as well as with other more mainstream types of music situations like Spotify, Pandora, and Sirius radio which, if you kept up, you know that there are new cases being filed as we speak.

Bing Crosby’s estate was in litigation with Universal Music for over a decade.

And with someone whose career was a prolific as Bing Crosby spanning over 50 years. I’ve heard stories that there were literally train cars with his records.

[Filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2000, a lawsuit brought by the heirs of Bing Crosby accused Universal Music Group of underpaying royalties on his recordings.

Crosby, who died in 1977, recorded exclusively for Decca Records from Aug. 1934 until Dec. 1955. The Decca catalog—1,200 Crosby recordings--was subsequently acquired by MCA, and then Universal Music Group.

The lawsuit alleged that the singer negotiated a deal calling for royalties on all songs recorded before 1949 be paid at a rate of 15% of their wholesale price. Royalties for recordings made after that date were to be paid at 7% of their retail price.

According to the lawsuit, an audit showed Universal was paying royalties of 7% on all Crosby recordings.

On June 30, 2010, a jury in Santa Monica, California awarded the Crosby heirs in excess of $2 million in their lawsuit.

Bing Crosby may be the biggest selling recording artist of all time. He has sold close to one billion recordings, cassette tapes, CDs and digital downloads. The Guinness Book of World Records reports worldwide sales for his recording of “White Christmas” at over 100 million copies.]

As a result of a tradition of apparent underpayments, it has become the industry standard for artists to audit record companies to ascertain how much they are owed in back royalties. Have you overseen any litigation against labels?

No. I have negotiated with them across the table for my clients renegotiating digital issues, renegotiating streaming (royalties) and various other issues, including merchandising type of issues. I have not sued a record label. Kind of the goal is to have as good of a relationship with the labels as possible where interests are aligned in doing what is best for the artist.

That’s difficult when labels have “unmatched income” and “orphan works” often hiding owed artist royalties.

It certainly can, although one of the people that I respect most in the music business is John Ray, He’s head of business affairs at Capitol Records which is now with Universal. He’s usually on the opposite side of the table when we are negotiating, but he’s a great guy. He’s respected. He’s trustworthy and I honestly enjoy working with him. It non-adversarial even though we are arguing different positions for your clients.

Maybe he’s been softened up by Maria Cole, widow of Nat King Cole, and the Rick Nelson estate who both sued Capitol alleging that the label had underreported royalties owed.

I think that every label has weathered many, many lawsuits. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of the business. But when it’s all said and done, the goal is to be business partners, and hopefully everybody is doing what is best for the artist or, in most of my client cases, the artist’s estates. How I know Owen Sloane (Co-Chair, Entertainment & Media Group - Gladstone Michel Weisberg Willner & Sloane, ALC in Los Angeles) is from working for the Nat King Cole estate. Owen was Maria Cole’s personal lawyer for years and years. Unfortunately, Maria passed away last summer. I represent the children, and their holding companies, King Cole Partners, LP and KCP Songs, LLC which is the publishing arm. We have worked with Owen on numerous issues over the years.

Are the major record companies more flexible with royalty issues with catalogs today? Have those battles been fought with everybody on both sides now understanding what the bigger issues are in going forward?

I think so. I think record companies are realizing too that the music industry is greatly changing, and has changed over the past few years, and is rapidly changing toward the future. I don’t think that anybody really knows where it’s going to end up. So everyone—I’m speaking primarily for catalog artists—are kind of reevaluating, how are we going to do business in the future. What is the business going to look like? We are kind of going through this together.

Catalog has not been a significant downloadable business.

Correct but, unfortunately, if someone wanted to download the entire discography of a 1950s and 1960s legacy artist they could probably do it in about 10 minutes and it would be free. That’s the problem that BitTorrent has caused the industry. However, I think that there are other business opportunities that are really growing through licensing and doing special projects where are these catalog artists are in demand. They just are not producing new Frank Sinatras, Nat King Coles, Bing Crosbys or Peggy Lees in the music business today. It is almost making their recordings even more valuable.

Do you see reissues where a label thinks they have all rights but don’t? So they have to get permission from the estate for use of photos, videos or audio clips?

In some cases they do, and in some cases they don’t. A lot of that will be governed by an AFTRA contract that the artist signed when they originally did it. We look at such issues as if when they are taking a clip from a TV (show) or an old movie or they showing the whole product in its entirety. Our rights to go back in and control or renegotiate or get a license really depend on what they are doing and what rights they had to begin with. Who owned the show to begin with? It really differs on a situation-by-situation basis.

You handle the estate of Peggy Lee, who is celebrated in legal circles for taking on the Walt Disney Company in the early ‘90s.

Right. That litigation happened before my time but I’ve heard the stories. She did very well in that case.

It set a precedent as well.

Yes. It really defined what artist rights were in a lot of the music products going forward.

[In 1991, singer Peggy Lee, who had earned $3,500 for her 6-song and voice contributions to the 1955 animated Disney film “Lady and the Tramp” was awarded $3.8 million by a Los Angeles jury. Her contract with the Walt Disney Company, which had made about $35 million from video cassette sales of the animated classic, was written long before videos. At the time of its theatrical release, the film took in a higher figure than any other Disney animated feature since “Snow White.”]

Is this a business where word-of-mouth had led you from one client to another?

It really is. All through law school, I thought that I was going to be interested in doing corporate transactional work. My background is….my undergraduate is in a degree in banking and finance. I started out in law school working for one of my law professors, Dr. Rick Huszagh.

So you started off on the corporate track.

After law school was over, after I graduated in 1992, Rick Huszagh offered me a (full-time) job at Twh Corporation. We went around the country helping law firms in big litigation cases manage data. This is right when computers started to being used by lawyers on their desks.

What was your role?

I was kind of the person in between the lawyers, the litigators using this data, and computers programmers. Helping them to design programs that specifically helped them in litigation. I did that for a couple of years. After working with these litigators for a couple of years and during law school, I realized that litigation seemed very interesting. It was constantly changing and, having to jump in and learn new areas of law, drew me to it.

So I started working with some lawyers in the area of civil rights law, and anti-discrimination law. It was primarily federal court. I started learning the ropes of federal civil procedure. Got involved in some cases around the country with some other lawyers. Over the next 10 years, I got a reputation that I would handle interesting cases, more complex cases that other lawyers who were not familiar with federal court really didn’t know what to do with.

So really all of my work was referral. With another lawyer, I started my own firm in the mid to late ‘90s called Crain & Davis, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. We handled a whole potpourri of federal civil litigation cases. From environmental cases—all on the plaintiff side—to consumer rights cases to anti-discrimination cases.

How did you get involved with the Jerry Garcia Estate?

In the early 2000s, I got a call from one of my ex-law school classmate, Christopher Sabec who had been hired to be the CEO of the Jerry Garcia Estate based in Sausalito, California. He is now the CEO of the Digital Rights Corporation. A really good friend of mine. A potential infringement came up with a national burrito fast food chain that our client contended were using Jerry Garcia’s face, and altered song lyrics to be part of the part of the trade dress of the restaurant.

Christopher and I talked about the case. He said, “I’ve talked with the family and they want to go after this company, and make them stop. Can you handle it?”

You were living in Atlanta?

I was. He called me because he knew I had handled bigger litigation cases, and knew that the defendant was based in Atlanta. We spoke and explored it, and I said, “Yes. I’m interested.” I had to sort of jump in the deep end in that area of law. I had to talk to some other experts; have them onboard, if and when needed; and had to become an expert in publicity rights litigation. There weren’t really that many people around the country who specialized in it at that point in time.

[In 2005, Jerry Garcia’s estate filed a federal suit filed in Atlanta against Moe's Southwestern Grill alleging that the restaurant chain used Garcia's image unlawfully to sell food (i.e. the "Alfredo Garcia" fajita with its choice of grilled chicken, steak or tofu with lettuce, salsa, and shredded cheese).

Moe's Southwestern Grill was also using images of deceased celebrities, including Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and others as the inspiration for the names of menu items, and as restaurant artwork.

The Garcia estate suit accused Moe's of violating federal trademark and copyright laws and state fair trade laws and asked for unspecified but "significant" damages.

The suit also said the trademarked lyrics of Garcia’s song, "Casey Jones," were altered, and hung in stores in a violation of a trademark on the song.

Founded in Atlanta in 2000, Moe's Southwestern Grill was then part of the holding company Raving Brands Inc., and was being operated by Martin Sprock. In 2007, when Moe’s was purchased by FOCUS Brands, the chain had 360 locations in 35 states in the U.S.]

Wouldn’t Moe's Southwestern Grill be protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech rights?

Well, I’m all for the first amendment right but when free speech or journalistic speech turns into commercial advertising speech, and part of a business that we did not authorize that’s when my clients start having problem with it.

When they are selling the name, image likeness of Jerry Garcia and altered song lyrics, it’s certainly—at least in our opinion—and, generally, a similar behavior would give the impression that the estate is somehow endorsing or affiliated with the business. And that was not the case.

So they (the Jerry Garcia Estate) hired me to do that litigation. We started the ball rolling, filled suit, spent a lot of time prepping, drafting, researching and really as soon as we filed it (the lawsuit) because it was a novel case the media picked up on it and, before you knew it, I had a call from a lawyer in New York saying, “We’ve read about your case. We represent some clients who appear also to be potentially involved in your litigation. Would you be interested in representing them?” I said, “Yes. Who are your clients?” They said, “Well we represent the estates of John Lennon, George Harrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Barry White, and Miles Davis. And, by the way, the Frank Sinatra family wants to talk to you, as well.”

A big phone call for you.

Yes. After climbing back into my seat, I said, “Great. I’d love to talk with you.” One thing led to another, and I ended up representing all of those estates. We go through litigation and we get it resolved through a confidential settlement agreement. Everybody was happy. That was approximately a two year process.

It surprised me that Moe's Southwestern Grill had been using celebrity likenesses, and nobody had challenged them up to that point.

It was my impression that the restaurant which was a new restaurant chain, run by very savvy and sophisticated team of businessmen, grew very, very quickly. And within a relatively short period of time, they had hundreds of locations across the country. Their main markets were not the markets where these estates resided. That’s the only explanation that I know how these estates came to me first before going directly to their own litigation.

Despite their hippie origins, Grateful Dead members are regarded as astute businessmen as related in Barry Barnes’ 2012 book, “Everything I Know About Business I Learned From The Grateful Dead.”

From what I learned how they did business---and although I did not represent the Grateful Dead---they had a very well-oiled machine, and some of the best experts, really in the country, working with them based in San Francisco. I have a lot of respect for how the Grateful Dead carry on their business, and how the remaining artists in the band continue to do so today.. They are extremely sophisticated.

[Guitarist Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead are touted as marketing gurus in the 2012 book “Everything I Know About Business I Learned From the Grateful Dead” (Hachette Book Group).

“They created a unique business model,” said author Barry Barnes, a professor of management at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

According to Barnes, the band was a pioneer of customer relations, viral marketing and today's “freemium” model. Letting fans tape shows, for example, boosted ticket and merchandise sales.]

What are your outside interests? Sports?

English Premier (League) soccer is the #1 sport in our family.

What did you think of Gareth Barry’s historic 500th Premier League appearance when his Everton Football Club side beat Newcastle United 3-2 last week.

I don’t really care about Everton. The (English) team I favor is Liverpool.

[At 32, Gareth Barry, the on-loan Manchester City midfielder, became only the 10th player to reach the landmark when he started on Sept. 30th, 2013.]

How did you become a fan of English football while living in the U.S.?

I grew up playing soccer. I have three children. My oldest is 19, and just started university. He played soccer all of the way up.. My youngest is 13 and he’s heavily into soccer. He plays very high level soccer.

Why Liverpool?

I have always been a Liverpool fan. It’s probably somehow related to growing up, and my mom was a big Beatles’ fan. When I really started getting into it, I liked some of the Liverpool players, and there seemed to be a big following and I liked the culture around it, but it wasn’t one of the big other clubs like Man U, Arsenal or Chelsea.

Of course, the 2014 FIFA World Cup takes place in Brazil next summer. Who do you favor?

I’m a big England fan. I like Steven Gerrard, and Glen Johnson from Liverpool on the team. I also like Frank Lampard, although he’s from Chelsea.

Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record.

Larry is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry.

He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”


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