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Juneteenth

 

Losing the rights to your story
There have been vicious attacks directed at me in the last few days and I
will tell you why I am protecting my rights -- and those of the [redacted] --
from [redacted] Films.

Last month [redacted], [redacted] and [redacted] entered a motion in court to strip me of my [redacted] songs. Now, I must now defend myself both in federal court and in the court of public opinion. This is an effort on their part to coerce me to relinquish my rights to my work and my story.

Up to the day I was served with the court papers, I held out hope that they would do the right thing. They are doing this to me solely because I insisted they honor an agreement that was made between them and me at the start of this movie.

This is a great disappointment for all of us who worked so hard supporting a film we all believed in.

[redacted] and [redacted] should be explaining their actions to all of you. They are at the core of these attacks and have enlisted many,
including [redacted], to help them.

For people who throw the word righteous?? around a lot, they should know that it means right thinking and right conduct.

They have demonstrated neither.

Around 1996, [redacted] and [redacted] approached me. They wanted to make a film about [redacted]. They said my participation was vital. They also said they had never made a full-length film before. I told them I
would assist in whatever way I could under one condition: That I would be
the music producer for the film and that I would share in any profits
from my story. They assured me, without hesitation, that we had an agreement. We could both benefit from the fruits of our efforts. I would do the music and they would get their movie made.

In 1997 I worked with them in Chicago filming in Lincoln Park. The seven-minute trailer-with my interview-was completed and it won them the
[redacted] Film Grant award.

Through the whole of 1998 and 1999, our office arranged vital interviews
for the documentary with people who had never agreed to be interviewed on camera about [redacted]. These interviews were granted on the basis of my vouching for the filmmakers.

By fall 1999, I came to Detroit to be interviewed at length for the documentary. These interviews proved to be the backbone narrative for the entire film. I worked hard on the interviews and was committed to telling the story as honestly as I could: The good and the bad.

We moved ahead with our mutual plans for a companion soundtrack album with some great bands covering [redacted] songs. [redacted] encouraged us to go into the marketplace to find a home for the soundtrack. We had commitments and even recorded tracks from major artists. [Redacted] introduced us to third parties as the "music people" on the film. She sent us recommendations for our soundtrack project. We acquired distribution offers from credible music business companies. We even wrote a letter for [redacted] and [redacted] to their bank illustrating the nature of our agreement so that they could ask for money to get the film produced.

We endorsed their project to many companies here on the West Coast, including [redacted]. We attended the initial meetings with [redacted] so that, as prospective partners, [redacted] could see that I was in support of the project. I was referred to during these meetings as the "music producer." We were making great progress and we had substantial offers on the table.

After working with [redacted] and [redacted] for four years bringing the film into production, we felt it was well past time to contract our agreement. We wanted what we had agreed on in the beginning of our work together. I made it clear to [redacted] that I had created my own job on the film and that we didn't want what was theirs, only what we had worked for ourselves. I didn't want their money, or their credit. In fact, we were creating income for [redacted] and their investors and the other members of the band and the widows, whose support we had also encouraged. [Redacted] refused to discuss this with me.

In 2001, after much prodding, [redacted] and [redacted] showed us 20 minutes of the film and it was clear that they had eliminated me from the music production work. We saw 20 minutes of a film with the music finished. I was extremely disappointed. Not by what they had done with the music, but that I had been lied to and used. We wanted answers. The more we reached out, the more they avoided us.

I signed their partnership agreement. Their lawyers told us that their
agreement was not binding until I also signed an image and publicity
release that I found to be egregious. I have not signed the
release/waiver. It's excessive.

They got what they wanted from me and kicked me to the curb without even a mention of our original agreement. I knew it was binding. I did business based upon it. I committed myself, and all my resources to their film. It was my work and it's the story of my youth. It's also my music. And apparently, it was my mistake in trusting them.

By April 2002, with the music work completed without my participation and all discussion of the accompanying soundtrack unresolved, the film was
screened in Chicago. I was asked to attend, still with no explanation
offered as to why my job was taken from me. Later, [redacted] told us that they would not be meeting with us to discuss our outstanding business.

We considered withdrawing our endorsement. We discussed it with [redacted] and [redacted]. We called the investors. We reached out to [redacted] and[redacted] and their attorneys--personally and through our attorneys--by telephone, fax, email and by letter and they ignored our attempts to resolve matters.

[Redacted] asked us if matters had been resolved. They had not, but we still did not stand in the way of [redacted] efforts to find distribution
for the film. Perhaps there was still hope for resolution? We had worked hard on it and spent a great deal of our own money. We agreed to a
festival-only license. [Redacted] issued a one year-limited gratis
license to the filmmakers, which expired in early Fall 2003.

They continued to screen the film after the license expired.

Still, we remained open-minded. We even offered them the job as the
production company on our own performance DVD and event in London last year and we offered--as an olive branch--to host a screening of their
film to students in London. To all of this we have been denied consideration. As a thank you, they bullied and threatened our partners on the project.

At one point later, [redacted] called me and asked what I wanted. Again I gave him my request that he honor our original agreement. He refused.

We requested that [redacted] withhold a license to the music. They honored the request of [redacted], [redacted] and me. They continue to do so.

[Redacted] continues to screen the unlicensed film in cities across the country for profit, making it, officially, a bootleg film.

The soundtrack album is lost forever and I am being demonized for
demanding what was promised to me from the beginning. Am I expected to throw away the rights to my music and my story because the filmmakers have made a "righteous" movie about a "righteous" band? Horseshit. I did all that was asked of me, and much more. All we expected was an opportunity to earn a living doing what could be done with my own music and my own story.

If my partners in the [redacted] and the widows and friends wanted to tell their story and contribute to this film for their own reasons, or-not, that's
perfectly fine with me. I have no quarrel with them. But that is not the
reason I became involved. I wanted to work. That's all I ever wanted. I
didn't want anyone to give me anything. I do music for film and
television for a living. I was willing and able to generate my own
paycheck, but [redacted] and [redacted] took that away from me. Even after they assured us time and again that we were their full partners.

[Redacted] is protecting their copyrights, as is their legal responsibility.
Their attorneys have sent a cease-and-desist letter to all involved with
[redacted], who have brought this upon themselves.

[Redacted] Films have responded to my right to protect my body of work and my image by filing a motion against me in federal bankruptcy court. They are attempting to blackmail me into agreeing to their license. It's an onerous maneuver. They hold a metaphorical gun to my head and then ask if I'm willing to help them with their "license problems." They have
enlisted [redacted] as their emotional enforcer. She has co-signed their motion.

They reveal their contempt for me by having their attorney call with the
promise that they want to "make [redacted] a star." As if I'm a naive teenager with rock star fantasy.

[Redacted] has told a professional associate that they will "take [redacted] publishing from him in 30 days." I have also been told that they will "write a book called "[redacted]," and that they are "taking this to the press. We will make [redacted] look like a fucking idiot, the asshole that he is" is soon to begin. This is ugly stuff coming from folks who "sob to journalists" over their troubles. Where is your dignity?

Because I required them to be honorable in their dealings with me, and
after years of restraint, I've had enough. We have waited a long time to
work this out. We have been patient. They've had years to talk to me. I
am not an unreasonable man. I was willing to talk right up to the day I
was served with their motion to invade my personal life. Now there is
nothing in this for me but the expense of defending myself in court and
the use of my time writing essays like this one. I don't need their film
to make my life complete. I have a good life. I have been telling the
story of the [redacted] all my life. It belongs to me and my partners in the
band, not [redacted] Films.

Sadly, my relationship with [redacted] and her family, that I have worked so hard to mend since [redacted] death, has been utterly destroyed.

I'm no saint. I've been to prison, I've been to skid row, I've been homeless and in rehab and have known some shady characters in my day, but rarely have I come across people whose actions have been as cowardly, unprincipled, duplicitous and fundamentally dishonest as [redacted], [redacted] and their attorneys [redacted] and [redacted].


Time to Break it Down
Every business relationship should be agreed upon, legally. In this story the person continued to give the producers the benefit of the doubt to salvage anything from the already ruined relationship. This dug the hole deeper.

Once you create a formalized agreement that clearly states what your responsibilities are and those of the others involved, you will have a framework to build a healthy business as well as a business friendship. People usually get mad when they feel they are doing too much of the work or aren't getting to do what they had hoped to.

You'll find that the lack of a formal agreement is the number one reason why people get ripped off, screwed and maneuvered out of their rights and money.

If you don't feel you are at a level that it needs to be legal, just make a simple document that says what you will do and what they will do. It should be said that the capability to make a distinction of the need of a legal agreement may decide whether you get screwed and or keep your friendship(s).


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