MC5 Movie Lawsuit Resolved?

Detroit Tango publishes the United States District Court’s Findings Of Fact And Conclusions Of Law (along with some pointed commentary) in the case that prevented the MC5 documentary, A True Testimonial, from being distributed.

The gist: the judge ruled in favor of the filmmakers.

CASE NO. CV 05-8381 AG (CTx)

The Honorable Andrew J. Guilford, United States District Judge, issued his ruling on March 31, 2007. My favorite “fact” is this one:

31. Defendants were first-time filmmakers who spent eight years of their lives trying to create a documentary film that would be historically truthful, a documentary that would celebrate the talent and creativity of the MC5 band, a documentary that would say something about the 60’s, and would say something about the present. They succeeded, and the film merits wide distribution for the enjoyment and edification of the masses.

I’ve seen the movie and I wholeheartedly agree with Judge Guilford: it deserves to be seen. Let’s hope everyone involved can set aside their differences and get this movie out to the people who need to see it. Hey Rhino, make it happen!

“It’s good to remember the 60’s, but some say if you remember the 60’s you weren’t there. Perhaps to assist all of us in remembering the 60’s, Defendants David Thomas and Laurel Legler made a film on the MC5, a 60’s Detroit Rock and Roll band that made its mark on American history with loud rock and roll and radical perceptions positing an imperialistic and materialistic America. This lawsuit teaches that materialism remains with us, as Plaintiffs vigorously seek money from Defendants. Although the MC5 faded away largely due to drugs, the band lingers on in the memory of many, and would be known to many others but for pending legal feuds.”

The Honorable Andrew J Guilford, United States District Judge

Findings Of Fact And Conclusions Of Law, issued March 31, 2007

SYNOPSIS: To briefly summarize this case, Wayne Kramer, Margaret Saadi Kramer and Muscletone, Inc. sought damages for copyright infringement, breach of contract, fraud and related claims.

After reviewing the facts at trial, focusing on the conduct of the parties as Thomas and Legler were investing time and money into making the Film, the Court concluded the facts made it inequitable, unfair and improper to award any recovery against Future/Now on copyright related claims and that the required elements of an enforceable contract or a quantum meruit or fraud claim were not met.

The Court found that 14 of the 15 compositions were co-owned by the widows and heirs of Rob Tyner and Fred “Sonic” Smith, who each had granted permission for use of those songs.

The remaining copyright issue involved only the song “Poison; Kramer argued he was assigned the rights to “Poison”, and claimed the use of “Poison” in the film created a copyright infringement.

The Court disagreed, finding that “Poison” was “an insignificant part of the Film.”

Read the rest of the Court’s Findings Of Fact And Conclusions Of Law at Detroit Tango.

Previously: DKT/MC5 Electrifies the City of Lights.

Update: Detroit News and Free Press chime in and address the question of whether this means the DVD will ever get released.

“We’re hopeful,” said Thomas and Legler’s attorney, Vincent Cox. “There are still some problems because the deal with the DVD distributor was damaged by the actions of Warner Chappell in refusing to issue the license. In order for there to be a release, that question has to be cleared up.”

One problem is that numerous bootlegs of the film are already out there, circulating on eBay and other sites for years, presumably copied from press or festival screeners. But the filmmakers apparently have much in the way of outtakes that could be added to a new edit.

Cross your fingers!

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