Copywrong?

Deep Blue Something involved in legal fight over money, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and the rights to their own music

"I then tried to see them backstage, a room upstairs," Bickel says in his deposition, "and they wouldn't see me. I tried to see Todd."

Charles Davis contends this is not a copyright case. First of all, he says, the song existed long before Bickel met the band, and the version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on 11th Song is a completely different recording than the one on Home. He also points out that Bickel never bought the song from the band; rather, Davis stresses, Bickel merely loaned the band a few thousand dollars to record 11th Song.

Davis insists Bickel filed his lawsuit in federal court because there was no way the alleged agreement between Bickel and the band was going to stand up in state court. Davis refers to the demand for federal jurisdiction as nothing more than a "delaying action."

Davis says Deep Blue Something only filed its lawsuit in July 1995 because Bickel ignored, three times, the band's request for accounting records and royalty figures, which Davis started asking for in December 1994. According to Davis, the three band members received only $250 a piece for sales of 11th Song, whereas Bickel pocketed several thousand dollars--much more, Davis notes, than his original investment for the recording and manufacturing of the disc.

"Despite what Mr. Byrd says, our suit wasn't a preemptive strike at all," Davis says. "The band wasn't even in negotiation with Interscope at the time. It was because Bickel wouldn't respond to my demand letters to give us an accounting, and when he wouldn't do that a third time, we filed our suit. It wasn't a preemptive strike, and if he thinks so, Mr. Byrd is kidding himself.

"We got tired of his client not responding and refusing to give an accounting and then telling everybody that Deep Blue Something and everything they did was going to be his from now on: 'I own you guys.' Well, he doesn't own us."

Bickel's intentions surrounding Deep Blue Something were always clear: He saw, and perhaps still sees, the band as his meal ticket. The January 7, 1993, contract between Bickel and the band concludes with the statement: "It is our hope that Deep Blue Something will become a nationally recognized entity and the rights of Doberman Records will be preserved. However, let it be known that Doberman Records and Louis Bickel from this day forth openly desire for any company in the music business...to purchase Doberman Record's rights."

In his deposition, Bickel puts it more clearly: "I did it to make money."
Right now, the case is being delayed while U.S. Magistrate William Sanderson reviews the motions of Deep Blue Something, Nugent and Swinford, and Interscope and Atlantic to dismiss or delay Bickel's federal suit until the debate over the legality of the contract is settled. Both parties expect the case to reach trial sometime around September, after more depositions are taken and more discovery motions are filed.

Until then, all money made from new sales of 11th Song will go into a court fund, Bickel will go on selling insurance, and Deep Blue Something will go on selling their records by the thousands. Every single day.

SXSW showcase showdown
Out of the more than 100 local bands that applied this year for the annual South by Southwest music conference in Austin, 19 scored showcase performances for the conference, which takes place March 13 through March 17. They are: Cowboys and Indians, American Analog Set, Hagfish, Slobberbone, The Big Train, Bobgoblin, Pat Boyak and the Prowlers, Brave Combo, Brutal Juice, Caulk, Ronnie Dawson, Dooms U.K., Doosu, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks, Old 97's, Tripping Daisy, Vibrolux, and Greenella. Three of those bands--Tripping Daisy, Brutal Juice, and Vibrolux--already have major-label deals, but no matter; this year, SXSW has loaded its roster with a heap of ringers, including the likes of Joan Osborne, George Clinton, Iggy Pop, Throwing Muses, Billy Bragg, Randy Newman, Golden Smog, Liz Phair, Edwyn Collins, Geraldine Fibbers, and former Bangle Susanna Hoffs. What? The Eagles weren't available?

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