Songwriters MUST get angry about this!

This is a really long post and I apologise - but I think it's important enough to ask you to indulge me to read to the end!

Allan Caswell, is a successful and respected Australian songwriter who, for more than a decade has fought for the protection of one of his most famous compositions.You can read more about the case, here.

His song “On the Inside” (the theme for the television “Prisoner”) reached No.1 in Australia and New Zealand, No.3 in England and made the Country Charts in the USA (his own version was a top 20 country hit in Europe in 2004).

For more than a decade Allan has fought to protect the rights to his work "On The Inside" while his publisher SonyATV have sat on their hands and done nothing.  

Recently in the New South Wales Supreme Court, Sony convinced the judge presiding over the case (more about him later) that it was ok to acquire catalogues of songs from smaller publishers and then not adhere to the terms of the contracts with the writers of those songs. Sony also offered up to that court their belief that it was at "their discretion"  whether to take action, or as in this case....not.

Sony, when first notified of a possible infringement some ten years ago, hired a respected and knowledgeable musicologist (one they had used previously) that agreed that the two songs were so similar it was unlikely it was coincidental; then when they realised they were the publishers of both songs, shopped around till they found a musicologist that provided a response that better suited their needs.  They then attacked the integrity of the first musicologist in court?

The judge in the Supreme Court, expressed as to what a musicologist did (obviously didn't keep up with recent cases, Larrikin Vs Men at Work for example read up at Deakin University!) and expressed disappointment that he wouldn't get to speak with American Country Superstar Teddy Gentry (ONE of the FOUR writers of the infringing song) as he was looking forward to meeting him!  The judge also agreed with Gentry that as he lives in the mountains with limited access to TV, it is unlikely he would have been exposed to Allan's song, even though his band Alabama were no 1 on the chart at the same time Allan's song (sung by Patti Paige) was ALSO on the same chart!  Even though Gentry is only one of four writers credited with writing the offending song "Christmas in Dixie , any of them could have heard the tune and contributed it.

Why is this case important?
 
Most songwriters sign publishing contracts for two reasons:

1. to make the most of income opportunities
2. to protect their work

If this decision is allowed to stand without appeal, it means that realistically a publishing contract will offer no benefit to a songwriter at all; it will be a gift of a significant percentage of royalties and licensing earned to the publishing company with no protection or promise of income to the writer (and might I say little or no effort on their part).

It also means that companies like Sony can swallow up smaller publishing companies at will, making money from the contracts entered into in good faith, but not not having to honour any of the obligations contained therein,

This is not acceptable.

As songwriters we must understand what we are signing when we enter into these arrangements.  We must understand what words like "discretion" mean in relation to contracts.  We must no longer blindly accept what is placed in front of us as "that's just how it is".

How you can help

$10, 000 is required to cover the cost of the appeal. The case has already cost thousands of dollars but the appeal must go ahead!

You can support the appeal by:
  • buying the Christmas In Dixie/ On The Inside Medley on iTunes
  • buying an album (direct from Allan, and I have a few available if you're in Melbourne - email me!)
  • sharing the video below
  • pre ordering the brand new album “Sometimes When You Lose You Win”, which will be released in the next few weeks (email me).
  • contribute $25 or more and receive an Allan Caswell album or a pre order of the new album (email me for trust account details)
  • join The Songwriters' Fighting Fund on Facebook to keep up with all the news.
All the money contributed will be paid directly into the trust account to enable lawyers to run the appeal.



More information

A few  links where you can read all about it!

5 comments

  • Louise Routledge
    Louise Routledge Tamworth
    An awesome article, so informative of the facts leading up to this case and the injustice in handling of it. It escapes me how as songwriters you're not all banding together to stop such behaviour by corporations, they'll have to back down eventually or run out of 'stars' to record, they'd never be arrogant enough to take you all on because you're their bread and butter. Take a stand and make the wonderful world of iconic Australian Country music even better, for all of you.

    An awesome article, so informative of the facts leading up to this case and the injustice in handling of it. It escapes me how as songwriters you're not all banding together to stop such behaviour by corporations, they'll have to back down eventually or run out of 'stars' to record, they'd never be arrogant enough to take you all on because you're their bread and butter. Take a stand and make the wonderful world of iconic Australian Country music even better, for all of you.

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    just reread the entire article and I'm going to run it again as well. At one point you noted "I did end up at Columbia." Well, there it is

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