Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Violent Femmes Lawsuit

Do you think that in 1980, when the Violent Femmes were formed, that its members ever wondered if they would reach such a level of success that they would be suing each other like the Beatles had only a handful of years beforehand? Earlier this month, VF bassist Brian Ritchie sued vocalist Gordon Gano in what has now become typical for bands of that era: a dispute over royalties. This was widely reported in the music press and on the Internets.

Not skimping on the legal expenses, Ritchie has retained the services of three big firm Texas lawyers to file a federal lawsuit in New York. They are: Stacy Allen, Lawrence A. Waks, and Emilio B. Nicolas of the Austin office of Jackson Walker, L.L.P. (Nicolas, pictured on his profile on the JW website, looks young enough to have been but a toddler at the time of VF's self titled debut album in 1982). Attorney Daniel Scardino is also assisting with the prosecution of the case.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero (who has addressed more important issues of the day but is, in fact, no stranger to music industry lawsuits). However, preliminary matters will be addressed by U.S. Magistrate James C. Francis.

Violent Femmes completists (of which there are many, presumably, after all of these years) can review Ritchie's complaint and supporting evidence as follows:

1. Brian Ritchie's Complaint for Declaratory Relief, Equitable Relief, Injunctive Relief and Damages and Demand for Jury Trial (1 of 2) [PDF].
2. Brian Ritchie's Complaint for Declaratory Relief, Equitable Relief, Injunctive Relief and Damages and Demand for Jury Trial (2 of 2) [PDF].
3. Exhibits A and B to the Complaint (Exhibit A is an 11 page list of "Disputed Compositions and Recordings", while Exhibit B is an October 14, 2001 agreement between Ritchie and Gano/Gorno music which Ritchie claims is null and void).
4. Exhibits C, D, and E to the Complaint (Exhibit C is the United States Trademark Registration for the mark "Violent Femmes," Exhibit D is a November 30, 2006 email from Alan N. Skiena to Howard Comart, and Exhibit E is a letter from Skiena to Daniel Scardino).
5. Rule 7.1 Corporate Disclosure Statement of Brian Ritchie d/b/a Violent Femmes [PDF]

You've got to love the fact that Brian Ritchie, who is identified in his complaint as a member of a "folk-punk" outfit, was required to file a "corporate disclosure statement." The real question presented by this lawsuit is not whether Ritchie is greedy or whether Gano is withholding royalties from his longtime bassist. The real issue is whether the judge (or rather, his law clerk) can insert as many references to VF songs in his rulings a la this 1987 judicial opinion in which the same was done for songs by the Talking Heads.


Anonymous said...

I was a member of the Violent Femmes fan club back around 1985 or so and was oh-so blown away when they had actual hits and crowds at their shows here in TX. Sucks to hear they're fighting over $ at this late stage of their careers.

Anonymous said...

What's really ironic is that Ritchie once told Hoffman that he should know better than to hire lawyers and try to get more money from Gano. Now he's doing it! Hypocracies abound. Shall I go on?

Anonymous said...

As judge, I would grant Ritchie his share of the unprincipled Wendy's commercial proceeds, then order that he donate them to PETA.