[the motorpsycho vs. vow lawsuit]

Case history ...
... the chronology of events

In the years 1991-93 ...

... Motorpsycho signed 3 contracts with Voices of Wonder Records.

Under these contracts, the following recordings were released:
Lobotomizer, Soothe, 3 Songs for Rut, 8 Soothing Songs for Rut, Demon Box, Mountain EP and Another Ugly EP.

In 1994 ...

... the relations between MP and VoW cooled down, and MP left VoW to release their future material elsewhere.

VoW made it clear to MP that the 3 contracts all say that MP has to sign a publishing agreement with VoW, and that the third contract (’93) gives VoW the right to release a live CD with the band (as a compensation for the extra costs related to releasing Demon Box on vinyl).

By 1993 MP had realized that signing a publishing agreement with VoW would mean little else than giving away parts of their songwriter incomes to VoW. MP refused to sign the publishing agreement that VoW had sent them.

As for the live CD, MP obviously made a lot of serious attempts to record their live performances in this period. But all the tapes turned out to be unsuitable for release, either for technical reasons, or for artistic reasons, or both.

In January 1995 ...

... MP wrote to VoW: «We consider the collaboration to be terminated, as the options in the existing agreements have expired. We will not sign any further agreements with VoW.»

Nevertheless, for the following years VoW repeatedly has stated their claim for both the live CD and the publishing agreement.

There was little contact between MP and VoW after this, except for some letters in 1996. At this point MP had for some time been consulting a private lawyer for assistance.

It is commonly known that the early MP recordings are hard to get in their original format (LP). This is why MP has accused VoW for «lack of fulfillment» of the contracts. See below.

Early 1997 ...

... MP asked their trade union (Norwegian Musicians' Union - NM) to take care of the further proceedings.

In December 1998 ...

... MP became aware of the fact that VoW had collected NOK 195.000 from a state fund (Norsk Kassettavgiftsfond) to record and release Demon Box, Mountain EP and Another Ugly EP. According to the applications from VoW, the recording costs were substantial. It is commonly known that MP themselves paid for not only the recordings, but also the mastering costs and cover development.

At the same time, MP discovered that, since they had paid for the recordings, they probably would have producer rights in the Norwegian collecting society GRAMO, in addition to their rights as performers. MP wrote a letter to GRAMO, stating their claim. GRAMO answered that money for producer rights had been paid to VoW until 1997, but from now on, no producer money would be paid to either party until a legal solution or a settlement had been reached.

In December 1998 ...

... NM wrote to VoW, asking them to accept that MP is the legal producers of the recordings. This was turned down by VoW.

Early in 1999 ...

... MPs new lawyer, Erik Nadheim, wrote a letter to VoW’s lawyer, urging for communication, and making it clear that MP would take the struggle to court if VoW showed no sign of bargaining will. The response from VoW’s lawyer was not satisfactory.

March 23, 1999 ...

... Erik Nadheim handed in the lawsuit to Oslo city court. The lawsuit is based on three claims:

  • The 3 contracts from 1991-93 are legally terminated, or must be considered legally terminated by MP due to lack of fulfillment from VoW.
  • MP has the right to the producer part of the GRAMO money, beginning at 1998.
  • VoW has to pay to MP an amount of money, the amount being decided by court, as compensation for recording costs recieved by VoW from Norsk Kassettavgiftsfond.

Not many weeks later, VoW’s lawyer, Peter Nitter, handed in a counter suit against MP:

  • VoW has no obligations whatsoever in connection with the main lawsuit.
  • MP has to pay to VoW an amount of money, the amount being decided by court, as compensation for the losses VoW has had due to MPs reluctance to deliver the material for a live CD and to sign a publishing agreement with VoW.

October 7, 1999 ...

... the parties met in an attempt to come to a settlement on all the points above. The meeting itself was no success, however there was some communication between the lawyers for the following weeks.

June 26-29, 2000 ...

... the parties met in Oslo city court. MP were represented by the three of them, and VoW by Dag Krogsvold. 8 witnesses were heard, among which were Helge Sten, Jeannette and Rolf Gustavus from Stickman Records, and representatives from different organizations in the Norwegian recording industry.

August 11, 2000 ...

... the judgement was announced:

  • VoW has no obligations whatsoever in connection with the statements no. 1 and 3 in the main lawsuit.
  • MP has the right to the producer part of the GRAMO money, beginning at 1998.

In the counter suit:

  • MP has no obligations whatsoever.

What is the situation after this judgement?

MP is the legal producer of all the MP material that has been released by VoW.

VoW has the exclusive right to release all this material for as long as the recorded material is protected by copyright (which is 50 years, counting from the year of public release).

August 17, 2000 ...

... Motorpsycho decides to appeal the part of the ruling that gives Voices of Wonder unlimited and exclusive rights to release the early recordings. Furthermore, Motorpsycho appeals the part of the ruling that gives Voices of Wonder the right to keep NOK 195.000 from the Norwegian state as compensation for recording costs etc.
Also, the ruling on the division of lawsuit costs between Motorpsycho and Voices of Wonder will be appealed.

September 11, 2000 ...

... the appeal is handed in to a lower Court of Appeal (Borgarting lagmannsrett) by Erik Nadheim.

November 6–8, 2001 ...

... main hearing in the lower Court of Appeal, Oslo (Borgarting lagmannsrett). The members of the court find it unnecessary to hear any of the witnesses representing the recording industry and the recording artists, who were offered by Motorpsycho.

December 10, 2001 ...

... announcement of the ruling of the lower Court of Appeal:

  • Motorpsycho has lost the case as regards the appeal (2 out of 5 original points of conflict – Motorpsycho previously won 3 points of conflict in the City Court).
  • VoW hereafter has the exclusive and unlimited right to exploit the mastertapes for all recordings covered by the 1991–93 agreements.

December 14, 2001 ...

... the Working Committee of the Norwegian Musicians' Union (MFO) unanimously agrees that the union will financially support an appeal to the Norwegian Supreme Court.

December 20, 2001 ...

... Motorpsycho decides to appeal.

January 9, 2002 ...

... the appeal is handed in by Erik Nadheim on behalf of Motorpsycho. (The appeal deals with the transfer of rights, referring in terms of law mainly to the Norwegian copyright act and to preliminary works leading to this act, and to the Norwegian contract act.)

April 19, 2002

... the Committee on appeals of the Norwegian Supreme Court turns down the appeal, on the ground that it «obviously will lead nowhere».

The final outcome of the case is as described under August 11, 2000, above.

Trond Brandal
(Norwegian Musicians' Union)