Music Pirates Going Overboard!

Artists Fight Back To Protect Their Livelihoods

(who replaced founding member Florence Ballard), and Jean Tyrell, Scherrie Payne, Susaye Greene, and Lynda Laurence — who recorded with the Supremes in later years — should be the only other people with the right to use the name, Wilson says.

“They will say ‘We recorded this in 1964,'” when they weren’t members of the group during that period, Wilson says. “It’s false advertisement. They’re not giving us credit. It’s almost like the history is taken away.” This is not just a problem for the Supremes. A number of groups currently perform as the Platters, the Drifters, and the Coasters, all groups who made it big in the 1950s and ’60s, Wilson says.

Though the courts ruled in 2001 that Internet file sharing of music is illegal, there is no national legislation to protect artists from the piracy of imposter groups.

Wilson is working with the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation, other musicians from the 1950s and ’60s, and numerous legislators to pass the Truth In Music bill. At press time, the bill had passed in Connecticut, Illinois, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, and in several committees in Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York. The bill requires truth in advertising musical performances and makes it unlawful to advertise or conduct a live musical performance or production through the use of a false, deceptive, or misleading affiliation, connection, or association between a performing group and a recording group. Imposter groups, their agents, and venue owners could be fined up to $50,000. Wilson hopes that a federal law will soon be in place.

It’s not uncommon for artists to take matters into their own hands when their music and identities are violated. After he realized parts of his CD had been downloaded, Kweli posted a letter on, an online community of recording artists. He says the response from the site’s visitors was negative. “They were bashing me for not wanting people to download it. They totally missed the point that I’m an artist and you have to respect what I do.”

Because so many people were downloading the CD, Kweli went to his label, MCA, to persuade executives to release it early. “It had a lot of buzz around it and I wanted to make it available. But they said no. It was then that I decided to start my own record label.” In August 2005, Kweli signed with Warner Bros. Records, where he also penned a deal to sign new artists to his own label, Blacksmith Music Corp.

Vincent Phillips, an Atlanta — based entertainment attorney and a co — founder of BME Recordings (the home of artists such as Lil’ Jon & the Eastside Boys, Trillville, and E — 40), suggests other preventive measures that artists can take. He tells his artists not to let their friends have copies of their CDs before they are released and to limit the number of CDs they burn. Phillips also says that if the press wants to review a CD before it’s released, he will bring the media to him,

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