Just in recent months, Red Bank law firm Marks & Klein LLP has taken on a new area of practice thanks to one high-profile case.
Louis Tambaro, an attorney with the firm, said the bulk of Marks & Klein’s work revolves around franchising litigation, but the firm’s knowledge of intellectual property rights helped it transition into the music copyright infringement realm.
Tambaro is council for Anthony Stokes, a New Jersey resident who alleges that R&B star John Legend infringed upon Stokes’ copyrighted material in the song “Maxine’s Interlude,” which appears on the 2006 album “Once Again.” A lawsuit was filed against Legend on Thursday in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey.
Stokes said after a Legend concert at the University of North Carolina in 2004, Stokes gave Legend a copy of his demo tape with original work on it. Stokes included his contact information, but said he was never contacted by the rising star. According to Stokes, on the demo tape was a song called “Where Are You Now,” which he purports Legend used as the basis for “Maxine’s Interlude.”
Stokes reached out to the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organization, which pairs young artists with flexible law firms to fight infringement by larger artists with more resources. Tambaro said he and his client had reached out to Legend’s council, as well as Sony, to resolve the matter outside the court, but both Legend and Sony declined to settle.
“We’re talking about a young guy in his mid-20s, who probably the specter of the copyright lawsuit at that point was something he was trying to wrap his head around,” Tambaro said.
Tambaro said Stokes is looking for credit for the song, which is also featured in a 2008 concert DVD put out by Legend. Stokes also has the right to attempt to recover damages and attorneys fees under the Copyright Act.
Tambaro said he and Stokes need to prove Legend had access to the property, and Tambaro said there was a witness to the exchange. Additionally, the two songs must be proven to be “substantially similar” through scientific analysis.
Marks & Klein also is engaged in a high-profile copyright lawsuit against rap star Curtis Jackson, known as 50 Cent, which is pending in Eastern District of New York. Tambaro said the media coverage of the 50 Cent case has increased the interest in Marks & Klein in copyright lawsuits.
“It seems to be an extremely burgeoning area right now, especially in the music realm. It doesn’t seem like more than a day goes by where you see another copyright lawsuit involving a pretty big-name artist,” Tambaro said. “We’re right there with it.”