April 11, 2011
Black looks to be getting involved in the start of a legal battle over the copyright of the song “Friday.”
According to Rolling Stone, Black and her mother Georgina Marquez Kelly’s lawyer sent a letter to ARK Music Factory, the self-described “indie record label” that wrote and produced the song, demanding the master recording and claiming that ARK has been exploiting Black’s likeness and her song without her permission.
According to the letter, Marquez Kelly signed an agreement with Ark in November that stipulates Black has 100 percent ownership and control of “Friday,” including the master recording and the music video.
Considering the story of how Black rose to fame, though, a copyright dispute seemed predictable.
ARK, founded in August 2010 by Patrice Wilson, focuses on the recruitment of new artists. It will write and produce songs for singers, and often produce music videos to accompany the song.
Marquez Kelly paid ARK $4,000 to write and produce a song for Black to perform.
“Friday” was the song Black selected, and it was written by Wilson himself (who makes an appearance in the music video as the incongruous rapper).
The music video was shot in January and uploaded to YouTube on February 10.
For the first month, it only had around 4,000 hits. This all changed when Tosh.O blogged about in on March 11.
Then, it went viral and hit 200,000 views overnight. Currently, it has almost 90 million views.
As anyone familiar with it knows, the video hasn’t spread because of its excellence.
At the time ARK signed Black, no one thought that she or her song would ever reach any significant level of fame.
In particular, ARK’s lawyer claims that the contract between Black and ARK was not court-approved.
For any experienced entertainment industry player, court approval on a contract with a minor is a necessity.
This is because a minor can back out of a contract anytime before they reach the age of 18.
Because signing minors in the entertainment industry is very common in California, California Law provides for a court-approval process for such a contract.
Once approved, the minor’s ability to back out on the grounds of minority is barred.
ARK’s lawyer is pointing this out as a defense because the court-approval practice is so common that courts are often suspicious of contracts with minors that didn’t petition for court-approval.
Black is raising the issue now because she has been signed with a different record label and wants to retain rights to “Friday.”
Hopefully, the conflict serves as a lesson to ARK, Black, and all others in a similar position.
No matter how insignificant you think a transaction is going to be, never forgo legal procedures because it can come back to haunt you later.