THQ Inquiry Spurs Songwriter Lawsuit against WWE

A case that was ultimately kicked into high gear over a licensing inquiry by THQ has put one songwriter on the warpath against World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Michael Seitz (aka Michael 'P.S.' Hayes from the Fabulous Freebirds), and others. According to a lawsuit filed by songwriter James D. Papa the defendants in the case redirected royalty payments to several wrestling related songs he either wrote or co-wrote by securing the rights to music unlawfully.

Papa claims that he either wrote or co-wrote a number of popular songs that were used as theme music by wrestlers. The songs include "Badstreet USA," "Don't Step To Ron," "Man Called Sting," "Mr. Bang Bang," "Master of the DDT," "Freebird Forever," "Simply Ravishing," "Johnny B Badd," "The Natural," "The Dragon," "He's Smokin," and "Steinerized."

The saga begins when THQ employee Julie Sessing (a producer) contacts Papa for permission to use the Freebirds' entrance music "Badstreet USA," for a Legends of WrestleMania game, according to the complaint:

"THQ Contacts Papa to use Badstreet USA in the Legends of Wrestlemania Videogame. A representative of videogame producer THQ, Julie Sessing, recently contacted Papa and expressed THQ’s interest in using Papa’s song, Badstreet USA, in connection with a wrestling videogame, 'Legends of Wrestlemania.' After initially making an offer to Papa for use of the song, Sessing emailed Papa to confirm his ownership of the song. Despite the fact that Papa, through his publishing company Papa-Hayes Music, had always been the only publisher of Badstreet USA, Sessing indicated that THQ’s records showed the song to be owned by World Wrestling Entertainment ('WWE').

"As a result of the confusion, Papa contacted BMI to ensure that Badstreet USA was properly registered to him and his companies," the complaint continues. "Upon his investigation, Papa learned that Badstreet USA had been improperly and erroneously reregistered by Defendants and been given a new registration number, resulting in the royalties being redirected to Defendants. Eventually, through working with BMI, Papa was able to correct the registration to properly reflect his ownership in the work. However, by the time the registration was corrected, THQ had decided not to use the song."

The complaint then goes on to lay out exactly what Papa wants from the court: royalties paid (plus pre- and post- judgment interest) on the sale of DVDs, computer games, the sale or licensing of ring tones, and the broadcasts of cable television shows and on-demand programming; a preliminary and permanent injunction to halt the use of the copyrighted materials; an order directing the named defendants to file a report detailing how they have complied with the injunction; reimbursement for legal fees; and a trial by jury where the court will determine damages. He also wants the court to certify that he owns the rights to the protected works.

You can read the entire complaint here (PDF).

Source: Courthouse News

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