(Hartford) – After eight years of litigation music industry giant Sony BMG Music Entertainment has settled a lawsuit filed by leading industry entertainment lawyer Attorney James L. Walker, Jr. Walker alleged in his lawsuit that the music industry giant refused to allow urban artists effective legal representation.
“We felt strongly all along this was a case we had to fight in order to protect artists and their right to choose effective legal representation and also the best manager, attorney, publicist, accountant in protecting themselves as artists,” said Kenny Walker (no relations), a spokesperson at the firm.
Filed nearly a decade ago in 2005, the Connecticut based Walker & Associates law firm alleged that Verity Records, Provident Distribution, Zomba (now owned by Sony), and Max Siegel, tortuously interfered with contractual relationships that the law firm had with dozens of artists. The case received national attention. (See LA Times story for example http://articles.latimes.com/2005/may/02/business/fi-gospel2)
In the complaint, the Plaintiffs named numerous examples of bad conduct by Sony including intentionally omitting of the firm’s name on album credits, defamation about the firm, and a refusal to pay artists top dollars for the use of their copyrights and intellectual property.
For example, in 2002, Walker had secured top payment for nearly 2 dozen artists on the popular “WOW Albums”. Then Sony reps, according to the lawsuit, instructed those artists to terminate Walker or face a possibility of not working on projects at the label.
Specifically, the lawsuit insisted that a number of well known clients were directly told not to use the top-rated attorney, including many high profile clients Walker represented like Grammy winners Hezekiah Walker, Donald Lawrence, and Twinkie Clark to name just a few. Legendary songwriters like David Frazier and V. Michael McKay were also told not to use Walker on their mega publishing and copyright deals, according to the suit.
“Often labels want artists to use attorneys that the labels can control –this avoids paying the artists their worth and saves the labels millions of dollars and is clearly a conflict of interest. When you decide to tell untruths about this firm and threaten our artists, you have crossed the line,” said Attorney James L. Walker, Jr. (@jameslwalkeresq).
Verity Records, now called RCA Inspirational, is the largest mainstream gospel label in the world. Based in New York, it is or has been home to gospel music stars Fred Hammond, Richard Smallwood, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, John P. Kee, and Marvin Sapp to name a few.
Walker has worked with some of the leading names in the music industry including Jamie Foxx, Freddie Jackson, Rick James, DMX, Shirley Caesar and BET’s Bobby Jones, among others. He recently co-chaired the legal team in the successful litigation and settlement between Disney’s Kyle and Chris Massey and A&E/Lifetime networks over the Bristol Palin show. Walker is the author of “This Business of Urban Music” (Random House/Billboard Books), the #1 urban legal reference book and teaches a very popular entertainment law related class, “Michael Jackson: The Business of Music” in Atlanta. Walker will also be headlining the T.B.O.U.M. Entertainment Book Camp this summer, (www.thisbusinessofurbanmusic.com), which will educate artists, songwriters, and entertainment professionals on navigating the entertainment industry.
“The suit was not about money, it was about the rights of artists to have competent legal representation, be paid for their work, and the rights of artist representatives to work in this business without fear of intimidation and defamation.” said Walker business partner, J. Richard Byrd (@jrichardbyrd).
For More Information, Contact Ms. Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, Senior Media Strategist, at 404-505-8188
By James L. Walker, Jr.
Entertainment lawyer, adjunct professor, author and businessman
When I was 18, I was stopped on a moped by white police officers and rudely arrested, booked, finger printed and locked up as I tried to explain they had the wrong guy for the alleged stolen moped I was driving.
The police dropped all charges. But, I got the message quickly: I’m a black man in America and this is the reality of my life when it comes to dealing with police, so be quiet, shut my mouth and obey law and order.
Fast forward 25 years later, and some white cops often escort me via police cruiser to any of my properties or home or even the office building on occasion.
While I cannot make any excuses or justifications for the wrongful and ridiculous conduct of Sgt. James Crowley, who arrested the 58-year-old highly-respected professor, I can only say I am a bit taken aback that Professor Gates says that he now realizes “if this could happen to me in Harvard Square, it could happen to anyone in America?”
This statement has a duality that alarms me: Is he suggesting that because he was at Harvard, somehow he is exempt from the basic pains and struggles of folks in Harlem, USA vs. Harvard square?
Or, is he saying that it took this arrest and fiasco to get him in touch with the real struggles of the Black Community with regards to racial profiling?
For example, when interviewed by CNN, Prof. Gates, a middle-aged black man of incredible brilliance, was still surprisingly reeling in shock for what many Black men experience on the regular, stating, as if it was a big announcement, “What it made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are, how vulnerable all people of color are and (how vulnerable) all poor people are to capricious forces like a rogue policeman…and this man clearly was a rogue policeman,” referring to Sgt. Crowley, who disputes the characterization with no apology.
Where have you been brother Gates? Come down to Bridgeport, CT, and Camden, NJ, or Cleveland, Ohio, Houston’s 4th Ward, Compton, or Jackson, Mississippi and talk to the brethren and hear the Souls of Black Folks or at least Black Men.
Please relax on the thoughts of “using this as an educational opportunity” unless it is needed in the Harvard Square circle, because most of Black America, and those whites who’ll admit it, know we have these kinds of policemen.
Specifically, millions of blacks and Latinos are already educated on this sad issue in our society. And, whites have heard it often enough to know that it is real. The question is do people care, which is another whole discussion.
I don’t think we need Prof. Gates to “educate” us, I think we need you to get in touch with us.
Harvard has a number of black issues that are more important than a well-paid, white-collar professor being mistakenly arrested, unharmed and later having all charges dropped.
Harvard has the largest endowment of any university at hitting $30 billion dollars at one time (We know it took an $8 billion dollar drop, but can we put a few billions into the minority community?)
While Harvard had a record 11% of the admitted students come from African-American background, according to its school paper, we need to look at the surrounding struggles of Blacks in the Greater Boston area and put our outrage there on how Harvard can do more with these billions.
Again, I am so sad about the experience that Prof. Gates endured and I have the utmost of respect for him personally and his great scholarship, but to spend months rehashing how rude the officer obviously was to you and how appalled you are as one of our esteemed scholars, is useless.
We love your work as an academic, but keep working there and don’t state the obvious: for once in your life, of public record, you experienced what it is like for everyday African-Americans whose address is not in Cambridge, Mass. or Harvard Square.
Just maybe, we should spend time looking at the bigger issue of this exclusive Ivy league club that makes many of us with Ivy League degrees think we are in some way shielded with a false sense of security and a failure to realize that yet and still, you are still Black In America too!
NEW YORK – It’s been nearly two weeks now since the shocking news of the death of arguably the greatest entertainer of all-time, Mr. Michael Joseph Jackson.
As news of his death unfolded and the media circus ensued, I kept waiting to see how his family, legal teams, handlers, “spokespersons” and “advisers” would roll out the game plan.
Today, my wife asked me a poignant question that I think millions are asking worldwide: “What is going on with his funeral? Is Tuesday, the funeral or an appreciation service?” she continued. “And, is the event at the Staples Center being conducted by the family or others?”
These questions, which I couldn’t answer, and dozens of others continue daily due to the lack of any seemingly clear information from the Jackson clan.
Indeed, like any family, they are clearly overwhelmed by the death of their beloved brother, son, father, uncle and friend coupled with a billion people demanding answers and following the family’s every move.
All we do know is: Joe Jackson has a record label with a member of the Chi-Lites (of “Have You Seen Her” fame) and the much maligned 80-year-old Dad is going to jump back into the music industry very soon.
Which only added more confusion?
On Monday morning, Katherine Jackson, the matriarch of the family marched into court and secured guardianship of the three kids of Michael Jackson and some control of his personal effects, but not the lucrative music catalog.
Then, there was all of the confusion over the estate and whether or not Michael either left out his family, transferred all assets to sister Janet, or died without a will altogether.
Initially, it was reported he was broke when he died.
Then reports surfaced that he had a catalog worth millions.
The family lawyer for the parents said they had not seen a will. Then a few days later, another attorney representing the estate of MJ introduced a will, dated 2002, in court, but the will didn’t include his father or siblings and left the kids under the guardianship of his aging mother, and 65-year-old Diana Ross, in the event his mother could not fulfill the duty.
Then, later we learned MJ had a net worth of nearly $500 million when he made his will 7 years ago. And, while it dropped significantly with his embarrassing trials and failure to tour and work, he was still worth over $200 million just 2 years ago in 2007.
As the tabloid press and mainstream press continued with a new update every hour, Michael Jackson’s last known personal doctor, Dr. Conrad C. Murray hired a lawyer to represent him as police investigated the death and news reports painted him out as a not-so-good doctor with a checkered past, who may have given Jackson drugs that killed him.
And, even when we thought we had enough, the paid-off Debbie Rowe resurfaced and reportedly is considering a legal fight for two of the Jackson kids she birthed.
More confusion ensued and will continue as the lawyers and handlers try to sort out his estimated $2 Billion dollar music catalogue, various lawsuits and all of the personal effects that once adorned his Neverland Valley Ranch.
Which by the way, was another source of confusion: We were told initially there would be an observation this past Friday at the 2800-acre, one-time home of Jackson. That was scrapped after neighbors complained and the city realized it would be a nightmare.
Instead, Friday morning we were surprised to see Jermaine Jackson touring the house and estate with NBC’s Matt Lauer, and then later that same day with CNN’s Larry King – still not explicitly addressing any plans for a memorial service in the U.S. or overseas for his younger brother, only sadly saying, “I wish it was me” who died and not Michael.
So with all of the confusion and worldwide media circus, this weekend, I jotted down some thoughts and suggestions as an entertainment lawyer who has advised high profile clients in tough situations and under pressure.
First, to the family, as I am respectful of the fact that no one knows what you’re going through in mourning, I ask that you please accept my suggestions with some consideration that you have to decide how you as a family wish to mourn and deal with the pain of losing a loved one, particularly one as widely loved as Michael Jackson.
Understand this: the confusion will prevail unless the Jackson Family makes a move and of course get Papa Joe under control.
So, briefly here are 10 things the Jackson Family should do immediately to calm down some of the confusion and bring order to the chaotic media circus:
The TOP TEN
1) FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: Bring all handlers, managers, lawyers, agents and publicists for the various Jackson Family members into one room and designate one sound person as the spokesperson. Then conduct a press conference with all of the brothers, sisters, parents and extended family members present, but one person serves as the spokesperson. Present a united family front, one that is mindful of the many millions of people worldwide who cared so deeply for Michael and who are also grieving;
2) The Michael Jackson Celebration Week: To calm down the demand by millions to be a part of this memorial celebration and cramming into the much-too-small Staples Center, announce a week-long celebration kicking off on August 29th (MJ’s birthday) and ending Labor Day weekend thereafter;
3) EUROPEAN TOUR: Consider a European Tour (and possible domestic tour) featuring a Jackson Five/Jackson Family Reunion Tour. Include all of the Jackson Siblings, and possibly invite Usher, an artist who is very successful and admittedly incredibly influenced by Michael Jackson, out on certain dates to fill in for MJ (also, the use of video and technology, could beam MJ in for various numbers and dance steps). This is not done to exploit the situation, but instead to celebrate the music and give the fans something millions are yearning for in the wake of his death;
4) SONY PARTNERSHIP: Announce a Partnership With SONY BMG or whomever was MJ’s current record label to release a “Best of” Commemorative CD featuring some original music, interviews, and other never-before-heard audio;
5) BET, MTV & NETWORKS: Meet with the networks and announce a Jackson Family Special on BET to “Remember The Time”. Also, as MTV initially refused to air Black videos, this is a wonderful time to meet with them and announce a partnership and TV special. There are several other networks that can do specials, too;
6) GRAMMYS/NARAS: Meet with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (GRAMMYS) and announce that Michael Jackson will be honored in 6 months at the 52nd Annual Grammys with the show being dedicated to him, as well as the creation of a special award named in his honor;
7) AEG/PAY PER VIEW: AEG, the concert promoter, has released two minutes of the countless hours of rehearsals and practices, should announce the final concert will air on pay-per-view, with the proceeds to benefit a charity, as well as free pay-per-view to children ill at hospitals, group homes, etc … given MJ’s work with the sick and ill;
8.) SCHOLARSHIP FUND: Jackson did a lot of work towards education and scholarship. Immediately announce a $50 million dollar pledge from his estate towards the establishment of scholarship for “young Michael Jackson Scholars” at Colleges nationwide, and in particular, for struggling Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
9) The Jackson Family, An American Story: do a multi-media deal with Time Warner for books, audio, digital and print for an autobiographical book on the family, the legacy and other aspects, as well as any audio available from MJ;
10) NEVERLAND RANCH AND GARY, IN. Museum: Work out a deal that Neverland Valley Ranch will become the Graceland of the West Coast as Elvis’ brilliant team did in Memphis and go back to Gary, Indiana and create a museum and school, with the proceeds from these business ventures going to The Michael Jackson Foundation, various charities, and offset the expenses of the ranch.
There are several other suggestions; however, these 10 suggestions would accomplish several things. First, it would give the fans something to hold on to and look forward to and understand: there is Jackson Game Plan.
Secondly, this would allow the family some time to grieve and plan out many of the suggestions above, as most would not require an immediate act by any of the family members and would take legal time for lawyers to hash out.
Lastly, with all of the negative publicity, if the Jackson Family announced some of the next steps, such as these, it would help to cement the legacy of MJ and let the world know that this family is still a close, tight unit and aware of the implications of their son, his legend, and what must be done to preserve it.
Again, to the Jackson Family, which I correctly called our Kennedys on several news outlets last week, take as much time as you need, but the world is not going to rest simply by holding a jam-packed ceremony on Tuesday morning.
Matter-of-fact, with 1.6 million people clamoring for less than 20,000 tickets to the Staples Center tomorrow, it’s pretty obvious we’re going to have more confusion in the air.
James L.Walker, Jr. is an attorney who is based in Stamford, CT. He is the owner of the law firm of Walker & Associates (www.walkerandassoc.com), recently named CT SBA Minority Business Champion of the Year. He is frequently a guest on BET, CNN, ABC, CBS and Court TV, to name a few. He is also the Author of the top selling “This Business Of Urban Music” and an adjunct professor of Entertainment Law at UCONN Law School. He can be reached at email@example.com.
When pop icon Michael Jackson died last week, many issues were raised regarding his estate and his will.
Who will be inheriting the estate?
Who are the beneficiaries?
Who will serve as the legal guardian for his children?
Jackson’s will which is dated July 7, 2002, estimate that his estate at the time was worth more than $500 million. Jackson’s will states that the entire estate will go to the Michael Jackson Family Trust. It also states that his mother, Katherine Jackson, is a beneficiary of the trust and the guardian of his children. Interestingly, it names Diana Ross as a successor guardian in case something were to happen to Katherine Jackson or if Mrs. Jackson cannot assume guardianship.
With Jackson’s prominence in American culture, and all the money he is worth, one would question why others will not be benefiting from Jackson’s untimely death. In an effort to solve this quandary, one should familiarize his or herself with some basic knowledge on wills.
When creating a valid will, the person making the will must be at least 18 years old. Additionally, the will must be in writing signed by the person who is creating the will. Two witnesses who are not going to inherit anything from the will must be present at the time of the signing.
When drafting a will, the person making the will decisions’ include: Who inherits your estate. That is, who inherits what you own (beneficiaries). Who will become the guardian of your children? Who will be entrusted with making sure your wishes are kept (executors).
A will can be deemed invalid if the person making the will was under pressure from other people when he or she was making the will. The person creating the will must also understand what they are doing, meaning they are fully aware of to whom their possessions are going to and what they are leaving behind. A sound-mind is needed by the signer at the time of signing the will.
In some cases, people feel prone to challenge a will. Judges may allow the challenge if there is substantial evidence. When one considers challenging a will they must hold the belief that the will is invalid, or they have not been properly provided for in the will. The people who could challenge the will are current or former spouses and civil partners. However, the current or former spouses and civil partners should have not remarried or entered into a new partnership. Wills are, in general, valid until the person’s death. However, there are exceptions. If a person remarries, or divorces a spouse, the will can be revoked.
People who have lived with the deceased for two years prior to the death of the person may also challenge, this includes children, or stepchildren. Additionally, if someone was financially dependent on the deceased they could challenge. They must, however, supply evidence that they were financially dependent, this includes children. There is a strict time frame of six months to challenge within the grant of probate being issued. Any challenge is considered to be legally complex and all parties should consult an attorney.
On the surface the Jackson’s will appears valid. However, there may be people who will challenge the will based on some of the conditions stated above. As always, a judge will review the plaintiff’s claims and he will base it upon what the law states.
The will for Michael Jackson has been filed in a Los Angeles courthouse. It is a relatively simple and straightforward will. It comes as no surprise
that Mr. Jackson names his mother, Katherine Jackson guardian of his children. What may surprise some, is that Jackson names Diana Ross as a back-up guardian.
Surprisingly, none of Jackson’s siblings are named in the will. The bulk of his estate is left to the Michael Jackson Family Trust, for the benefit of his mother and his children. A complete read through of the will can be found at the link below.
Author of This Business of Urban Music
NEW YORK – Last night, I was on CNN and we discussed in great depth, the latest developments in the sad saga of Chris Brown and Rihanna.
On Monday, it was announced that Brown took a plea deal and will not spend any time in jail.
He will see 5 years probation, 180 hours of Community Service and some type of restraining order to stay outside of 50 yards of Rihanna, unless they are at an “industry” event, i.e., awards show, etc.
The case has caused great dialogue and debate among me and many of my peers.
Specifically, many of my legal peers and community advocates are outraged that Brown “will only sweep up some trash and pick up litter on public streets….without any time behind bars”.
They feel this is an insult to abused women everywhere and that he got some type of celebrity treatment.
First, as I stated on CNN, let’s not make Chris Brown the face of domestic abuse. He is a young 20-year-old kid who made a horrific mistake, but he is not the guy who has done this all through his life and should be buried underneath the jail.
Chris is a rich, multi-millionaire and immature kid. He should have never put his hands on Rihanna or “fought back” as several reports are stating she was beating him up with a shoe over an alleged mistress.
He should have walked away and he should have kept security with him to avoid this type of behavior.
In any event, I take great exception to my peers and others who think he got off easy or the judge should have “stepped it up.”
As my legal peer and co-panelist Jeffrey Toobin, Esq. eloquently stated, in California’s current fiscal crunch, even if he were given the 5 year maximum sentence, due to their financial restraints, he would be out early anyway.
But, that is besides the point, what good does it do to have this kid sitting behind bars.
There are two things that should happen now and why I wrote this quick blog to offer clarity:
First: Brown should engage the 5 R’s as I call them of being an entertainer or athlete who has made a mistake; and
Second: Brown should announce a tour dedicated to domesticate abuse, as I stated on CNN and Fox this weekend and in my radio show this morning.
Let’s tackle the 5 R’s first.
Brown should have focused on Regret, Remorse, Responsibility and Respect for what he did in order to Rehabilitate himself and his career.
First, RESPONSIBILITY. He must first in no uncertain terms, take Responsibility. He has to state on record, “I Did this, it is wrong and I’m so sorry”.
Which, leads us to the second and third parts: REGRET AND REMORSE.
He must truly show his Regret and Remorse for what has happened and how he plans to repair the problem by speaking out and doing some good deeds in the community to show the level of his regret and remorse.
Fourth, RESPECT. He has to show respect for Women and Rihanna in specific. He must make it clear this is not how you treat women, or your girlfriend.
Finally, if he takes responsibility, shows regret and remorse, respects women, he then has a great chance of Rehabilitating Himself.
So, when I stated on radio and CNN last night that he should do a Domestic Abuse Tour, I sincerely think that in February, he should have announced, I am going to do a 50-city tour, donate thousands of dollars to Domestic Abuse charities and non-profits and go in to high school and urban (and non-urban) centers and speak out on the wrongs with this type of action.
What do you think? And, in the meantime, let’s not make this 20-year-old immature kid, the face of domestic abuse.
James Walker is the Author of This Business of Urban Music and practices law in Stamford, CT at the Law Firm of Walker & Associates (www.walkerandassoc.com).
It is with great regret that I send condolences to the family of our beloved Rev. Timothy Wright, and prayers to the Grace Christian Center Family. I had the opportunity to work with Rev. Wright and several clients on a project many years ago, and was truly blown away by the anointing not only on him as a singer, songwriter and producer, but as a father, husband, minister and leader. Like many, I grew up singing his classic “Come Thou Almighty King…” and will cherish his memory and legacy for many years to come…”
Having covered the OJ trial and mishaps over the years and watched his Hall of Fame football career as one of the greatest running backs of all time, I must tell you the story of Orenthal James Simpson is a sad Greek or rather African-American tragedy. It has divided us as a nation, a people and a legal community.
I did not follow this current trial as closely, however, it is my hope that the jury did not compromise our legal system and use this trial as a payback for the sad and unfortunate murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. My prayers continue to go out to their families and it is my hope that one day a criminal court will prosecute someone for these horrible murders. However, we do not believe in a judicial system of payback. If the facts and evidence in this Las Vegas add up, then the math is clear: Mr. Simpson should do the time.
However, there is a very concerning spirit of “payback” in this country that is not appropriate in any courtroom. The trier of facts, that being the jury, should review the evidence alone in the individual case and reach a conclusion from a preponderance of the evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt or from clear and convincing evidence, dependent on the nature of the crime and the applicable standard of review we use as members of the legal community.
What Are your Thoughts? Leave a comment.
James L. Walker