LOS ANGELES (CN) — A California appeals court heard arguments Tuesday in a case pitting genre-bending rock band Faith No More against its former lead singer, after a California record label swooped in to claim rights to the band’s debut album.
In 1985, Faith No More released “We Care A Lot” with then-frontman Chuck Mosley providing the distinctive, slurring vocals that helped make the underground band a favorite among skaters, punks and metal-heads in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
By 1988 the Mosley and Faith No More had parted ways after the band fired him and replaced him with Mike Patton. Patton sang on their Grammy-nominated major label debut “The Real Thing” and was the band’s frontman on all its subsequent albums.
Mosely sued his bandmates in 1989, claiming a partnership interest in Faith No More’s assets. They settled, and Mosley agreed to give up his fight for rights to the band’s works, its assets or name, Faith No More and its four members say in a Superior Court lawsuit filed in December 2015.
That was after Mosley and his attorney had entered into a deal with Manifesto Records, assigning it the rights to “We Care A Lot” for $4,000 and agreeing to pay 20 percent of royalties to the band, according to the complaint.
Mosley was entitled to one-fifth of those royalties under the agreement, with the other four members of the band each receiving an equal share, the lawsuit states.
Faith No More says it never knew the agreement existed, let alone received royalties.
Manifesto Records released a digital version of “We Care A Lot” that violated its settlement agreement with Mosley, Faith No More says. The band says it wants to release a deluxe version of its debut. Manifesto planned to release a physical version of the album in November 2015, according to the filing.
The state court later dismissed Mosley from the complaint. Mosley said in an affidavit for the court that he had unwittingly signed over the rights when his attorney Evan Cohen was also the owner of Manifesto Records and that he did not understand what he was signing. Mosley had fallen upon tough times and was working as a short-order cook in Cleveland.
“I desperately needed to have that money so I signed it. I did not believe I was doing anything wrong” Mosely said in the Jan. 29, 2016 affidavit. “I am distraught that I am being sued by my former band members and even more distraught if I did something that would negatively impact my future relationship with the band, which I value. I consider certain members of Faith No More as my ‘family.’ I would never have signed the Manifesto contract if I fully appreciated the dissention it would cause or how the band would object. I certainly would never have signed the Manifesto contract if I knew I was going to get sued, especially by my former bandmates.”
Mosely added: “I am not saying I do not have certain rights in that album. I relied on Evan Cohen to explain my rights to me. Now I am getting sued.”
Manifesto Records moved to strike the band’s complaint under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute, which protects speech against frivolous lawsuits. But Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson rejected the move in February 2011, finding the case concerned a contract dispute, and the company could not claim First Amendment protections.
“While FNM [Faith No More] and the ‘We Care A Lot’ album are involved in plaintiffs’ claim, they play a merely incidental role as part of the factual backdrop of the claim,” Johnson wrote.
Manifesto Records appealed the anti-SLAPP ruling. At the Tuesday hearing in downtown Los Angeles, Manifesto’s attorney Bridget Hirsch urged the Second District Court of Appeal to reverse Judge Johnson. She said the court should dismiss or remand for reconsideration in light of the California Supreme Court ruling in Baral v. Schnitt, which found that the anti-SLAPP statute applies to a broader array of claims, which include both protected and unprotected claims.
But Faith No More’s attorney David Given said the defendants’ use of anti-SLAPP motions was troubling, and was “bumping” up against the entertainment industry. He said it was Faith No More’s speech that the record company had taken and was now “waving” in front of the band.
The court took the case under submission.
After breaking up in 1998, Faith No More began touring in 2009 and followed that up with their seventh studio album, 2015”s Sol Invictus. Mosley also appeared on Faith No More’s second album “Introduce Yourself.”