Smokey Robinson, the singer of unforgettable R&B tunes including "My Girl" and "Cruisin," is now battling his ex-wife of 30 years.
They're not fighting over custody issues or houses; they are fighting over his beloved songs.
The basis of their case stems from The Copyright Act of 1976, which is the basis of copyright law in United States. Essentially, the law delineates the basic rights for copyright holders.
Experts believe that Smokey's battle with Claudette Robinson has the potential to create a precedent for musicians who have divorced in the past.
Did Smokey Robinson Commit Fraud?
Presently, Smokey Robinson is trying to use The Copyright Act's termination protocol to reclaim rights to his songs. The termination provision was added by Congress to give artists who had transferred rights to their music without being able to assert any bargaining power.
Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Tom Petty have also sought to reclaim rights to their music. However, Smokey Robinson is the first musician to file a lawsuit seeking declaratory relief so he won't have to share reclaimed rights to his songs.
The Robinson case pivots on these issues: Did Smokey Robinson commit fraud when he withheld information that he might someday be able to reclaim rights to his songs? In addition, there's a question as to whether "recaptured copyrights" should be defined as community property or separate property under California family law
Smokey and Claudette Robinson were married for 27 years and had two children. In addition, they sang together as part of The Miracles for a period.
Do Ex-Spouses Get to Cash In on Reclaimed Copyrights
Claudette Robinson filed a counterclaim against her husband. She has alleged that she is entitled to 50% of his songs and asserted that her ex-husband breached fiduciary duty, committed fraud, and breached the terms of their 1989 stipulated judgment they agreed to three years after the divorce.
Smokey Robinson's attorneys fear that Claudette's countersuit could jeopardize the singer's efforts to reclaim the rights to his songs. They also assert that The Copyright Act only allows recaptured rights to the author and no one else.
Claudette's attorneys believe that their client deserves her fair share of the royalties.
Smokey Robin's attorneys argued, "Congress did not intend for or authorize the exercise of termination rights by authors against third parties to result in a windfall taking of copyright and state law interests from their former spouses."
This case will be one to watch as singers and other musicians continue to reclaim the rights to songs they wrote long ago.
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