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Hollywood Docket: Jay Z Beats Sound Engineer; Nina Simone Settlement

A roundup of entertainment law news including Jay Z's appeal win over engineer Chauncey Mahan.

—On Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a win by Jay Z and Roc Nation against a sound engineer named Chauncey Mahan, who worked on Vol 3… The Life and Times of S. Carter, who held onto masters, outtakes, and other unpublished material, and who later claimed co-ownership. Just as the district court ruled, the appeals court finds that Mahan has waited too long to pursue his copyright claims. Jay Z and Roc Nation also affirm a decision that their communications with the Los Angeles Police Department in an effort to recover the tapes is privileged and can’t serve as the basis for a claim of conspiracy to commit conversion . The ruling doesn’t appear to have been a close one. Mahan not only must pay defendants’ attorney fees for his initial loss, but he will also have to pay fees and costs for the appeal as well.

—A long legal fight over Nina Simone recordings seems to be finally over.  Steven Ames Brown, an attorney who represented Simone in the late 1980s and 1990s, has been battling to recover rights and increase royalty payments for decades. Most recently, he’s been contending with Sony Music, and while the parties came close to an agreement in 2014 where Sony would have paid $390,000 to Brown, reversed $105,963 in producer costs for Simone and changed royalty rates for Simone recordings, that deal hit a snag over the scope of rights that Sony was being conveyed. The dispute then escalated into nuclear territory with an new claim that a subsidiary of Sony had uploaded more than 80 bootlegs of Nina Simone performances — which allegedly made Sony “one of the largest pirates in the recorded music industry in America.” At a settlement conference in December, the parties came to a new agreement, according to a declaration by Brown in court filed on Tuesday, although this  situation wouldn’t be resolved with some late drama. Sony is said to have not have signed off on a stipulation of dismissal right away. Apparently, though, that will be coming soon.

A version of this article was first published by The Hollywood Reporter.