Monday, April 16, 2012

The Daughtry Lawsuit

It’s a cliché because it's true. Behind every successful album or artist there is a lawsuit. The latest lucky winner is former American Idol winner Chris Daughtry who is being sued by three former band mates (from his pre- Idol days) for "constructive fraud," "breach of fiduciary duty," "unfair trade practices," and other deceptive and wrongful conduct.

I have not had a chance to review the complaint but other than the allegation of breach of fiduciary duty, the other claims seem a little strong for a case of this nature They appear to stem from the fact that the plaintiffs are claiming to have co-written two songs with Daughtry who allegedly then combined the songs on his first solo album and gave himself sole authorship credit. There is apparently also a claim to income from other songs including the hit "Home" based on an alleged agreement to share all revenues equally. The reports I read did not indicate if this agreement was oral or written, but to my mind that’s going to be a key factor.

As in all these cases, there is probably some truth to both sides and both parties are going to have some interesting evidentiary problems. I don't know the situation with Chris Daughtry and his former band mates but I do know that most of this could have been avoided by having a written partnership agreement in place. I try to make this point to new bands whenever I can and I usually get ignored – mainly because no one wants to spend the money to prepare a partnership agreement or other governing document – but I can tell you from experience that such an agreement, which defines band members splits and sources of income (i.e. is publishing included or not?) will always go a long way in protecting artists from lawsuits like this, or conversely can protect your right to income if your former partner gets rich and suddenly forgets what he or she once signed.

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