“I know a place where you can get away, it’s called a”….courtroom?
Madonna and her fans may have “Medellin” on repeat, but it’s an epic song of the past that is causing a battle in the courtroom behind the scenes. Shep Pettibone, famed producer and co-writer of Madonna’s iconic 1990 smash “Vogue” found out this week that he is in fact, not responsible for repaying the publisher’s legal fees in connection with a copyright fight that was won, a federal appeals court said on Wednesday, per the www.hollywoodreporter
This decision follows a messy & lengthy copyright dispute over a sample that the famed producer turned club impresario Robert “Shep” Pettibone used in the global Madonna hit “Vogue,” which the producer and Warner Music both defeated. Following that decision, another conflict arose over who in the end, had to pay the attorneys’ fees.(Originally, VMG Salsoul sued both Madonna and Pettibone for alleging that they had infringed on a 1976 song, “Love Break”.)
In April 2017, Pettibone sued both Warner/Chappell and WB Music stating that the publisher was withholding his royalty payments with no cause. Fast forward to March 2018, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan dismissed the complaint, stating Pettibone must indemnify Warner per the deal, meaning the publisher would need to use his royalties to offset any legal fees.
On Wednesday, the 2nd Court vacated the decision and Sullivan was directed to enter judgment for Pettibone. The agreement was “pock-marked with ambiguity” and, if anything, suggests each party would be paying its own fees and costs. The summary order states that “there is no explicit mention of whether an indemnification obligation exists absent such a breach.”
The appeals court instructed Sullivan to calculate the royalties that Pettibone is owed by WMG and consider his requests for not just interest and an award of fees, but also costs and expenses that he incurred in connection with this case. The court proceedings were contentious, with Circuit Judge Barrington T. Parker at one point telling Warner Music Group attorney Alexander Kaplan, “don’t play games with me” according to various reports.
The case can be read in it’s entirety here: 406639118-Pettibone-v-WB-Summary-Order
Currently, Pettibone is celebrating his twentieth year as the owner of Paradise, in Asbury Park N.J., which serves as one of the largest entertainment complexes on the East Coast. He was preparing to kick off their sure to be massive twentieth summer and told me exclusively “After a grueling eight and a half year battle, success at last! I am thrilled justice has prevailed. This is now case law and hopefully, will protect other songwriters and producers from “ambiguous” language written into these contracts”