You Can’t Have My Blessing…Or The Music!

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:18:19

By Breanna Pendilton |

Aaliyah Blog Copyright law is founded upon the theory that it will promote and incentivize new works, while also giving credit to the originator.  But what happens when the owner of that work, will not share it?  Does that promote and incentivize new works?  Lifetime has recently announced its plans to make a biopic of the late singer Aaliyah, who died tragically in a plane crash at the age of 22 in 2001.  Her family, who was not contacted about the biopic, is not happy, and feels as if Aaliyah’s life was enough of a story to be told on the big screen.  But what can they really do right?  I mean, Aaliyah’s life, itself, is nothing but a bunch of facts.  In the eyes of copyright law, facts are not copyrightable, and Aaliyah’s family does not own her life story.

But her life story is not the problem; the music is.  Aaliyah’s cousin and now President of Blackground Records, which released all of the songs and owns all of the sound recordings- is threatening to not release the recordings to Lifetime.  The record company not only owns the music, but also some of her videos, and photos as well.  Seems as if the family does have a bit of a say-so in the film after all, huh?

Even though the family is threatening to not release the recordings, Lifetime has another option.  While there may be one song, copyright law recognizes ownership in the recording of the song itself, and the lyrics of the song.  Ultimately, this can be two different people, and lucky for Lifetime, it is for most of her songs.  Many of her songs were written by other artists like Timbaland and Missy Elliot, just to name a few, and if they consent to release the lyrics to Lifetime, the network can simply have the actress whom they plan to cast as Aaliyah, sing all of the songs again, in her own voice.  This could possibly work for Lifetime’s biopic, but would it really give the fans that real “Aaliyah feel”, if it’s not really Aaliyah’s voice?  Stay tuned!

AMD LAW’s Tip of the Day:  When dealing with biopics, it’s like you’re engaged to be wed.  It’s best to not make the family mad and to ask them first, especially when the family owns all of the songs!


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