In the end, Klein’s ploy was so laughably despicable that the judge barred him from profiting by it, and Harrison wound up owning the rights to “He’s So Fine” himself. The setback seems only to have hardened Klein’s heart, and that led to decades of ruthless overcompensation.
In the early ’90s, ABKCO demanded that Janet Jackson give Jagger and Richards partial writing credit on the track “What’ll I Do” after she had the audacity to use the words “Hey hey hey/That’s what I say.” Another seven-word phrase, “You can’t always get what you want,” is said to have cost George Michael a share of the royalties from his “Waiting for That Day” single.
Most notorious was the sad case of the Verve: though they had cleared the Stones-related sample with Decca and PolyGram for use in their hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (which took four bars of a greasy orchestral reworking of “The Last Time”), Klein, as holder of the publishing rights, at the last minute decided that they’d appropriated too much of the musical content of the song. Since it was too late to halt the release and remove the sample, the Verve hastily agreed to hand over 50 percent of the “Bitter Sweet” royalties to ABKCO. Once the song became a massive hit, however, Klein decided that the Verve had overstepped the original agreement and that he’d now be more comfortable taking 100 percent. And even that wasn’t enough to wet his whistle, so he sold the song out to Nike and Vauxhall commercials against the band’s wishes.
Given decades of precedent, I can’t imagine how Wayne and Universal didn’t see this coming. Who knows what kind of bill they’ll be stuck with, but it’s my personal well-informed legal opinion that both defendants are set to be F’d in the B. If any good comes of this, it’s that we might get to see “Jagger/Richards” pop up in the credits of a Lil Wayne album. Which is the eyeball equivalent of huffing spray paint.
: Big Hurt
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