Tag Archives: Contract

Bankruptcy and Litigation

Judge Shaking Finger

After a decade of litigation and related bankruptcy, Jacqueline Palank of the Wall Street Journal wrote on the question of who owns the song, “Whoomp! (There It Is)”.

This song is familiar to anyone who attended a sporting event in the ’90s. Released in 1993, “Whoomp! (There It Is)” was one of those ubiquitous pump-up-the-crowd songs played during sporting events, a status cemented by its inclusion on the first volume of “Jock Jams.” It was later declared the 65th worst-song-ever, surrounded by such other ’90s gems as “How Bizarre” by OMC, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something and “Supermodel (You Better Work)” by RuPaul.

To decide this matter, Judge Richard A. Schell of the U.S. District Court in Sherman, Texas, scheduled a hearing for Aug. 27. This is when a jury will be selected for a trial over which of two music companies is the true owner.

In 1993, Alvertis Isbell’s Bellmark Records released “Whoomp! (There It Is),” by one-hit wonder Tag Team. According to Isbell, the record label owned the sound recording of the song, while its affiliated publishing company, Alvert Music, owned the composition rights to the song’s written form.

However, DM Records licensed “Whoomp! (There It Is)” in 1997. Bellmark filed for bankruptcy protection the same year. In 1999, Bellmark sold most of its assets, including its sound recording rights, to DM Records. According to Isbell, the composition rights weren’t included in that sale because they are an asset of Alvert, which wasn’t in bankruptcy.

According to Isbell, DM has been wrongly claiming ownership of both the song’s sound and composition rights. Isbell is seeking a ruling that Alvert Music still owns the composition rights, and also wants damages for DM’s alleged infringement on his ownership rights.

DM Records, however, says written agreements do not mention him or Alvert Music by name, and therefore don’t distinguish between the two types of song rights. As a result, both were assets of Bellmark and therefore included among the assets DM Records bought from Bellmark’s bankruptcy.

After a decade of litigation, the parties asked Schell to rule on the dispute without a trial. The judge denied the request Friday stating, “Because there are genuine issues of material fact surrounding ownership of the subject composition copyrights, the court denies both DM and Isbell’s motions for summary judgment.”

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