Bluegrass superstar Del McCoury has agreed to a settlement in a copyright infringement lawsuit he filed against independent label Copper Creek Records last year.


NASHVILLE -- Bluegrass superstar Del McCoury has agreed to a settlement in a copyright infringement lawsuit he filed against independent label Copper Creek Records last year.

The Grammy Award-winning artist and his label, McCoury Music, filed suit against Roanoke, Va.-based Copper Creek after that label obtained the masters to two recordings McCoury made in the early 1970s and made plans to release one of them.

McCoury's suit, which accused Copper Creek of obtaining the masters illegally, sought to stop the release of both recordings. The case spotlighted the legal wrangling that can result when the transfer of ownership rights in artistic works is called into question.

No money changed hands under the terms of the settlement, but the parties did agree on the disposition of the two releases.

One of the albums, "Del McCoury & His Dixie Pals," will be released this summer under the auspices of Copper Creek and McCoury Music. Strickland refers to it as a joint release, but Copper Creek owner Gary Reid says it's a Copper Creek release that also includes the McCoury Music logo.

"It's our master and we own the copyright," Reid says. McCoury will receive a standard royalty rate on the release, according to Reid.

The release will also be clearly identified as an archival recording on the package. This was a sticking point in the original suit because McCoury and his representatives claimed its release could potentially be confused in the marketplace with a new recording or interfere with the sale of new McCoury recordings.

McCoury recorded it with his band at the time, the Dixie Pals, at a studio in Ferndale, N.Y. belonging to Paul Gerry. It was released on Gerry's Renovah Records in 1975 and has been out of print for more than 25 years.

The second disputed recording will be donated to the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky., for archival use only. McCoury recorded it at Leesburg State Prison (now Bayside State Prison) in Leesburg, N.J. It was never released.

Citing the poor quality of the recording, Strickland says the parties agreed that while it should never be released, it also should not be destroyed.

Copper Creek purchased the masters to both recordings, along with other Renovah Records assets, from Gerry's widow. Copper Creek's attorney argued that the recordings were works made-for-hire and that McCoury had relinquished his rights to them.

McCoury's attorney argued that the lack of a written contract between McCoury and Renovah made any transfer of ownership rights to the label void under the statute of frauds provision in the federal Copyright Act.

Reid calls the lawsuit "a cumbersome and frustrating process" but he says "the outcome is OK."

Regarding the settlement, McCoury tells ELW, "It was an expensive point to make, but it was the right thing to do for my family and for other artists who may not be able to stand up for themselves."

Strickland, who owns Tampa, Fla.-based Rainmaker Management, agrees. "To me, the message was as important as the issues involved," he says. "The McCoury family will go out of their way to be fair with others, but they intend to hold others to the same standard."

In related news, Copper Creek principal Greg Greenstein, who had been Reid's partner in the company, is no longer affiliated with the label.