Hot Docs: Manager sues producers of Justin Bieber single

March 31, 2011

Justin BieberIt looks like Justin Bieber’s finding his way into the legal world already.

The writers of Bieber’s single “One Less Lonely Girl” are being sued by their former management company.

The facts of the case, while seemingly complex, are fairly standard for the industry.

The writers, Sean Hamilton and Hyuk Shin (collectively known as “A-Rex”), entered into a producer-management agreement with New East Management Group in August 2008.

The basic gist of the contract was that the manager would promote the producers’ career to the best of its ability in exchange for a percentage of the producers’ earnings in the entertainment industry.

While the contract is standard short-form common in the industry, the breadth of earnings the manager is entitled to is still considerable.

The manager is owed 20% all of the producers’ gross earnings from all entertainment-related sources for all contracts entered into during the term of the contract, which is two years.

Additionally, and perhaps most significantly, the manager is due 10% of the copyright of any work created and commercially-exploited during the contract term.

Hot Doc: Tate v. EMI Music Publishing

Source: Westlaw News & Insight – National Litigation

Here’s where the Justin Bieber song comes in.

Bieber started performing the song in 2009, within the contract term.

The management group is claiming in its complaint that it was responsible for getting the song on Justin Bieber’s album “My World,” also released in 2009.  However, the group has not received its income share from the song.

Even if New East didn’t have a hand in getting “One Less Lonely Girl” on Bieber’s album, it’s beside the point.

The contract doesn’t make the manager’s income conditional on its role in promoting the producers’ works; it is only conditional on the time period that the work was produced, which clearly falls within the specified contract term.

Thus, the manager is entitled to its share of the profits.

The case is not going to be groundbreaking on any legal fronts.  It’s an unremarkable contract dispute that will in all likelihood get settled outside of the courts.

Rather, the dispute speaks more to the circumstances of Bieber’s rise to fame.

Both the manager and producers are sets of two individuals.

As the conversations attached to the complaint exhibits suggest, both the manager and producers here are legally unsophisticated and seem to be largely unversed in national industry practices.

Moreover, even the bigger names that had a part in the matter (L.A. Reid and EMI Music, to name a few) seemed to overlook New East’s contractual rights.

What does this all mean?

  • That major music-industry players were eager to publish Justin Bieber before public interest dwindled like so many other YouTube phenomena before him.

  • That they didn’t want to wait for new songs to be written; they were looking for songs already in existence from anywhere they could find them.

  • That in this haste, legal rights were overlooked, inadvertently or not.

It’ll be interesting to watch whether this lawsuit is only the beginning of parties seeking their share of Bieber’s rise to stardom.