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Polygram Records, Inc. v. Legacy Entertainment Group, LLC

205 S.W.3d 439, 77 U.S.P.Q.2d 1680 (2006)

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Polygram Records, Inc. v. Legacy Entertainment Group, LLC

Tennessee Court of Appeals

205 S.W.3d 439, 77 U.S.P.Q.2d 1680 (2006)

Facts

In 1951 and 1952, Hank Williams, Sr. performed live prerecordings on the radio program known as Mother’s Best Flour. The show was broadcasted by WSM Radio. WSM recorded the performances and would broadcast them for the radio show when Williams was away on tour or otherwise unavailable. During that time, Williams was under contract with MGM Records, the predecessor to Polygram Records (plaintiff). Under the contract, Polygram had the exclusive right to Williams’s recordings made for the purpose of making phonograph records. In 1997, Legacy Entertainment (defendant) obtained the recordings of Williams’s performances on Mother’s Best Flour and sought to produce the recordings into a compact disc. The recordings in Legacy’s possession were initially found by a former WSM employee who took them home after WSM attempted to discard the recordings. Polygram learned of Legacy’s intentions to produce and sell the recordings and informed Legacy that it owned the exclusive right to exploit Williams’s recorded performances. Williams’s heirs—Hank Williams, Jr., and Jett Williams (plaintiffs)—joined as coplaintiffs against Legacy, claiming that their rights of publicity in Williams’s name and likeness gave rise to the right to exploit the recordings. The trial court found that Polygram had no interest in the recordings. Legacy and Williams’s heirs each filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion in favor of the heirs. Legacy and Polygram each appealed their dismissals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Clement, J.)

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