An interesting case around ownership of rights, in a time when those rights are becoming more desirable as income-generating investments. TaP Music Publishing has funded litigation against Trax Records on behalf of house music pioneers Larry Heard and Robert Owens (AKA Fingers Inc. and Mr. Fingers) for two years, claiming copyright infringement, fraud and breach of contract. TaP alleged that Trax, Sherman and Cain “during the decades since [they] first began exploiting [Heard’s and Owens’] musical works … enriched themselves and brazenly exploited [the] musical works for their sole benefit, while encouraging, and enabling, and aiding and abetting others to do so as well.”
TaP has now revealed that Trax, which played a major part in house music’s development in the 1980s, has reached a negotiated settlement and agreed to relinquish all rights to Heard and Roberts’ musical works. Heard and Owens are now, TaP say, “taking some time to decide how best they can showcase their newly-returned musical treasures.” This is an example of how, in even relatively niche genres, the value of catalogue is seen as worth fighting for; and we’re sure now to see some significant positive exploitation of Fingers Inc’s songs, possibly rejuvenating them for a new wave of house music fans. There have been a lot of contracts signed over the years that artists felt were unfair; perhaps with catalogue now being seen as a reliable income stream, we’ll see more targeted litigation like this.