Jenner & Block

Firm Achieves Significant Win for Client UMG Recordings in Dispute with 1950s Pop Star Connie Francis

On February 11, 2011, Jenner & Block won a significant victory for its client UMG Recordings, Inc., when the Hon. Barbara S. Jones of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted UMG’s motion for partial summary judgment, dismissing a claim by pop singer Connie Francis that UMG committed breach of contract by including her recordings on compilation albums with songs from other artists, without first obtaining her consent.

Ms. Francis, one of the most prolific and successful popular music hit-makers from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, entered into a series of recording contracts during those years, with UMG’s predecessors.  “Anti-coupling” clauses in two of those contracts prohibited UMG from including recordings made under the agreements in compilation albums without the singer’s consent.  Ms. Francis’ lawsuit, originally filed in 2002, alleged tort claims (which UMG successfully moved to dismiss in 2005), violation of the anti-coupling provisions and other accounting issues.  However, the coupling claims constituted over 90 per cent of the $3 million in claimed damages.

In dismissing the coupling claim in its entirety, the Court agreed with the arguments made by the Firm that a broad release provision in a 1982 contract between the singer and UMG  unambiguously freed UMG from “any and all…covenants, agreements, contracts and promises in law or in equity” that Ms. Francis “previously had or continued to have when the 1982 agreement was signed,” with the exception of rendering accountings and paying royalties.  The Court also found that Ms. Francis had failed to allege damages from the alleged breach.

The Firm’s team in this matter was led by Partner Andrew H. Bart and included former partner Jeremy M. Creelan.

Please click here for full text of Court’s Memorandum and Order.