Jury Awards “Whoomp! (There It Is)” Producer $2 Million For Copyright Infringement
Atlanta-based one hit wonder duo Tag Team found themselves in the news last Wednesday (September 12) after a Texas jury awarded over $2M in cash to a record label executive that said he owned the rights to the sport arena favorite. Alvertis Isbell, head of Bellmark Records, released a handful of records since its inception in the late 80s, with Tag Team and Miami Bass duo Duice landing some of the label's biggest hits. After declaring bankruptcy in the 1990s and selling off much of its assets to label DM Records, the 72-year-old Isbell has been fighting for a decade to retain the rights to his compositions, reports the Courthouse News Service.
After being declared the owner of the four-times-platinum “Whoomp!” masters, Isbell (also known as Al Bell) finally sees an end to the squabble between the executive and DM Records. Judge Richard Schell of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas found that because DM could not prove they owned the compositions, Isbell would be considered the rightful owner. Isbell sued DM Records after the label declared he sold the masters of Bellmark recordings in the Chapter 11 filing. Isbell contended that DM's position could be challenged, since the compositions were under ownership of Isbell's Alvert Music publishing company and not Bellmark.
Duice's “Dazzey Duks” single, a mild early 90s hit, figured prominently in the case as well, according to reports from the Tennessean music blog. Along with the $2.1 million DM has to pay Isbell for copyright infringement, the company was also ordered to pay $132,000 in statutory damages for “Dazzey Duks.”
Isbell's tenure as an executive is notable for the roles he played in shaping the landscape of soul music in the late 60s and early 1970s. He would become the first African-American to have ownership rights of the legendary Stax Records label, catapulting the careers of Issac Hayes and The Staple Singers, among others. Although his time with Stax ended on a sour note with the label sliding into bankruptcy in 1975 and an ugly bank fraud case, he eventually found footing again after becoming head of the Motown Records Group. Isbell would create Bellmark Records shortly after Motown and along with his aforementioned achievements, he also released Prince's smash hit "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World."
“We have fought long and hard for Al on this. It is very emotional,” said Isbell's attorney Richard Busch to the Tennessean. “We knew from the beginning that these copyrights were taken from him. And we feel not only vindicated by this decision, but we are still very angry that Al has been deprived of his property for all these years while the defendants wrongfully exploited it.”
Watch the video for "Whoomp! (There It Is)" below.
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