Musicians Union Slaps Studios With Lawsuit Over Reuse Of Film Tunes

If you’ve had musical deja vu at the multiplex lately, the American Federation of Musicians thinks it knows why. The union has filed a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, Disney and Warner Bros alleging that they reused snippets of film soundtracks without compensation. The 22-page complaint filed Tuesday in California’s Central District (read it here) covers the span of the AFM’s current contract, which took effect in 2010 and was extended in 2013 through last month. According to the suit, “Under the 2010 Agreement and all previous Agreements since 1960, the Producers agreed that ‘all music sound track already recorded, or which will be recorded prior to the expiration of this Agreement, will not be used at any time for any purpose whatsoever except to accompany the picture for which the music sound track was originally prepared.'”

Among the offending recycles, according to the lawsuit (in minutes and seconds): 1:10 of un-synced clip of the Titanic music soundtrack was used in This Means War; 35 seconds of the music soundtrack from Battle For The Planet Of The Apes used in Best Picture Oscar winner Argoand 47 seconds un-synced clip of the music sound track and three seconds synced of music soundtrack from Die Hard was licensed to and used by Universal Network Television in the “Dwight Christmas” episode of NBC’s The Office. Other films the union cites as having soundtracks lifted include The Dirty Dozen, Jaws, Car Wash, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Karate Kid, The Breakfast Club, Beauty And The Beast, Cast Away, The Bourne Identity and Up In The Air.

The complaint seeks a jury trial and “damages for all losses, including prejudgment interest, suffered by the AFM and musicians it represents as a result of Defendants’ breaches of the Agreement.” The union is represented in the suit by Lewis Levy and Daniel Barth of Levy, Ford & Wallach in Los Angeles and Jeffrey Freund, Robert Alexander, Abigail Carter and Philip Andonian of Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC in Washington, D.C.

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