The Jesus and Mary Chain are suing Warner Music Group (WMG) for copyright infringement and declaratory relief. The lawsuit, brought forth by bandleaders and brothers Jim and William Reid, was filed today (June 14) in a California federal court. In the lawsuit, viewed by Pitchfork, the Reids and their attorney argue that WMG has refused to terminate its copyright ownership of the band’s early work, namely the iconic debut Psychocandy. The Reids are asking for at least $2.5 million in damages.
The Reids and their attorney build their argument around Section 203 of the Copyright Act of 1976. Section 203 allows authors to ask copyright holders to terminate grants of copyright ownership 35 years after a work’s publication.
On January 7, 2019, the Reids sent a notice of termination to WMG for five albums—Psychocandy, 1987’s Darklands, the 1988 compilation Barbed Wire Kisses, 1989’s Automatic, and 1992’s Honey’s Dead—as well as various singles and EPs. Some of the singles and EPs had effective termination dates of January 8, 2021, while Psychocandy’s purported termination date was January 22, 2021, according to documentation filed with the lawsuit. (The other albums’ termination dates are in 2022 and beyond.)
In a December 2020 letter to the Reids, an attorney for WMG label Rhino responded, “WMG is the owner of the copyrights throughout the world in each of the sound recordings comprising the Noticed Works, and the Notice is not effective to terminate WMG’s U.S. rights.”
The Rhino attorney wrote that the Reids and their former bandmate Douglas Hart agreed that “[WMG predecessor] WEA was the ‘maker’ of the Noticed Works and the first owner of the copyright in the Noticed Works” when they signed with WEA in 1985. “As a result, you never owned any copyrights in the recordings which you could terminate,” the lawyer told the Reids.
Since receiving Rhino’s letter, the Jesus and Mary Chain have sent notices of termination with additional works in April and June 2021.
In a statement, the Reids’ lawyer Evan S. Cohen said:
Cohen is also representing various artists in a copyright infringement and declaratory relief. lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group; the class action suit was filed in a New York federal court in 2019. Cohen provided a nearly identical press statement at the time of the suit’s filing.