Brian Jonestown Front Man Wins One
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Former Brian Jonestown Massacre guitarist Jeffrey Davies needs to do more to persuade a federal court that the band violates copyrights on several songs, after a judge on Monday ruled in favor of front man Anton Newcombe.
In a dispute over the copyrights to several of the rock band's songs, Newcombe last year asked a judge to issue an injunction against Davies and declare that the guitarist is coauthor of the Jonestown tunes "Straight Up and Down," "Monster," and "Straight Up and Down II."
Davies filed a counterclaim in May, alleging that he cowrote three more songs, was the sole author of two others, and has an ownership interest in several other tracks on which he played guitar.
Davies joined the band in the 1990s and left in 2002, when he fell out with Newcombe. The band's travails were recorded in "Dig," a documentary about Brian Jonestown's rivalry with The Dandy Warhols.
In an 11-page order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins granted Newcombe's motion to dismiss Davies' counts of misappropriation, conversion, and an accounting, finding those state claims preempted by federal copyright law.
The judge also ruled that Davies did not provide factual allegations to support claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy.
But Davies' case is not dead yet. Cousins gave the guitarist 14 days to file an amended answer and amended counterclaims.
The former Jonestown member alleges in the counterclaim that Newcombe and his attorney Barry Simons conspired to deprive him of his share of royalties in Brain Jonestown songs.
In a Superior Court complaint filed in Los Angeles, Davies claimed that Simons had defrauded him of his share of royalties from "Straight Up and Down," used over the opening credits of HBO's television drama "Boardwalk Empire."
But even if Davies had made clear that Simons was acting on Newcombe's behalf, (which Davies did not, according to Judge Cousins), there is "no legal support for the suggestion that a client could be liable for the fraudulent misrepresentations of his attorney," the court order states.
"Davies must provide more detailed facts in order to allege that Newcombe knew of Davies' right to royalties and intentionally concealed that fact with the intent to defraud Davies, and that Davies suffered damages as a result of his reliance on the concealed facts," Cousins wrote in the Aug. 18 order granting motion to dismiss or strike answer and counterclaims.
Cousins found that Davies is barred from claiming statutory damages and attorney fees for the two songs he says he composed by himself - "(I Love You) Always" and "Jeremy Davies' Tall Tale" - because the guitarist did not register the copyright for those compositions.
Cousins also ruled out punitive damages, unavailable to Davies in a statutory copyright infringement case.