Did Clapton and Warner Music Give Due Credit?

By: Scarinci Hollenbeck

Song covers keep the music of yesteryear alive, but those reproducing material need to give credit where it’s due. The late Bo Carter’s relative alleged that Eric Clapton and Warner Music Group failed to do just that on Clapton’s 2013 re-release of “Unplugged.”

Clapton and Warner Music

According to The Tennessean, Miles Floyd, step-grandson of the late Bo Carter, filed a suit in Nashville claiming Clapton attributed the song “Corrine, Corrina,” to Huddie Ledbetter, which was actually written by Carter. The case is an example of how just one misattributed cover can result in a major lawsuit.

“More than a few artists have covered Carter’s song in the past, including Willie Nelson.”

The lawsuit’s details

In the court filing, Floyd asserted that Bo Carter licensed “Corrine, Corrina” in 1929, referencing confirmation from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) copyright database. More than a few artists have covered Carter’s song in the past, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Steppenwolf, as noted by Pollstar.

The $5 million suit targets artists, publishers and broadcasters who did not provide Carter proper credit. Barry Shrum, the lawyer spearheading the case for Floyd, maintained the case is about ensuring Carter continues to receive recognition for the contribution he made to so many genres.

“This is a situation where you have the estate, the rightful owners of Bo’s intellectual property, just trying to get what’s rightfully theirs and get credit where credit is due,” said Shrum, speaking to The Tennessean. “Bo created this song and started, in essence, a genre in music and influenced many performers in the future, and he deserves that credit.”

“Carter produced enough material to warrant several reissue albums.”

Other lawyers suggested the suit may not be successful. Charles Cronin, a law lecturer at the University of Southern California, took a look at the lawsuit and noted there was a joint author of “Corrine, Corrina” who may have had licensing authority.

Carter’s music and influence

Born Armenter Chatmon, All Music noted that Carter produced enough material to warrant several reissue albums. Capable of playing in a variety of keys and tunings, the blues musician has been heralded as one of the most original musicians of his time, an assertion made by individuals such as Acme Radio host Barry Mazor have made.

“If you just look at the impact of [the song], it’s been carried forward and messed with in almost every flavor of roots music there is, which is when you know you’ve got a winner,” Mazor told The Tennessean.

Along with Clapton and Warner Music Group, EMI Mill Music, Rhino Entertainment, Viacom and a few other parties are also named as defendants in the suit.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Shane Birnbaum, at 201-806-3364.

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