Songwriter Moving Forward In Case Against WWE For Copyright Infringement

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Back in July of 2012, a man by the name of Papa Berg alleged that the WWE had misappropriated his songs, caused royalties to be misdirected and interfered with a video game deal.

WWE attempted to stop Berg from getting into a legal battle in a Texas federal court by disputing the jurisdiction. WWE said that Berg’s lawsuit came too late and objected that Berg hadn’t been specific enough to support his claims.

This past Wednesday, a Texas judge trimmed Berg’s lawsuit but allowed him to advance forward in his attempts to go after the WWE for alleged copyright infringement.

According to docs, Berg wrote the “hit” song, “Badstreet USA,” used by the Fabulous Freebirds, as well as “Man Called Sting,” “Simply Ravishing,” “The Natural” and “Steineeized.” Embedded below is the Badstreet USA song that Berg wrote.

Berg says he was contacted by THQ, which wanted to use “Badstreet USA” for the “Legends of Wrestlemania” video game, but before any deal was reached, THQ discovered that records showed the song was owned by the WWE. Berg then investigated and found out the song had been improperly and erroneously registered by the WWE, resulting in the royalties being redirected to the WWE.

Eventually THQ ended up not using the song, and Berg says his investigation revealed a systematic pattern of errors and omissions by WWE personnel that effectively misappropriated Papa’s musical works on DVDs, ringtones, and its cable channel.

In the ruling on Wednesday, Judge Jane Boyle focuses in large part on jurisdiction. The WWE preferred that the lawsuit be tried in Connecticut, where the company is based, and the question became whether by selling its products and broadcasting its television content in Texas, the WWE was susceptible to a lawsuit there. About 1 percent, or $5.1 million, of the WWE’s net revenue was attributable to commerce in Texas, and the judge concludes that the “WWE knowingly benefited from Texas’ market for WWE’s products and therefore it is only fitting that WWE be amenable to suit in Texas.”

Boyle also allowed Berg’s lawsuit to continue for direct copyright infringement — although not contributory copyright infringement — finding that Berg has pled enough allegations at this stage. The plaintiff named his protected works, alleged registration, cited WWE’s access and made sufficient claims about the WWE’s use of substantially similar copies of his recordings including using “Badstreet USA” to promote two DVDs and playing the songs on cable TV.

The lawsuit will most likely proceed to discovery, then the summary judgment phase, and finally a possible trial where Berg will have to demonstrate that he’s as good with a finishing move as he is with an entrance.

(Source: Hollywood Reporter)

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  • Noel Lackey

    Surely he must have known something was wrong when he didn’t receive any payments over all those years?