San Francisco Bay artist Richard “Richie Rich” Serrell recorded “Side Show” back around 1990 with a group called “415.” In a copyright infringement suit that names Apple, NBC Universal, and Amblin Entertainment as defendants, plaintiff and I think 415 producer, Darell Jackson says that the track appears in an episode of Amazing Stories on Apple TV+; that his company JED Productions owns the rights to that track; and that he didn’t grant the rights to any such use.
“At no time has Plaintiff authorized the Amazing Stories Defendants to reproduce, distribute, perform, create derivative works based on, or otherwise exploit all or any portion of Side Show.”
From a musicologist standpoint, this isn’t particularly juicy. It would indeed appear to be true that episode two of Amazing Stories, “The Heat,” uses the track to accompany a street party that the main characters attend. (By the way, a “sideshow” is, according to Urban Dictionary, “an impromptu car show.”) In fact, the script has one character asking the other if she’s going to accompany her to “the sideshow” just shortly before the track plays.
So, this isn’t a matter of proving the track is in the production, and there’s not a lot for a forensic musicologist to consider here. Instead, rather like the Justin Timberlake and will.i.am situation around “Damn Girl,” this will evidently be a dispute about who has the rights to the track in the first place.
Side Show appeared on a 1989 album called ’41Fivin’ by 415. Again, Darrell Jackson claims his company, JED Productions, owns the rights, and the complaint describes defendants Nakamiche Muzic Publishing as “falsely representing to the Amazing Stories (other) defendants that the NAKAMICHE DEFENDANTS own the copyrights in Side Show.”
Here’s Side Show if you’d like to hear it.
Let me do a bit of a sideshow myself now. Say you buy a bike from a guy on the sidewalk. If the seller has a shifty look about him, you might consider the possibility that he just found the bike unlocked a few blocks away, right? What’s your obligation? Then consider, you’re a show producer or music supervisor with Amblin Entertainment looking for a track called SideShow to put in your production. You clear the rights with the people who the ASCAP database says hold them. What lengths can you be expected to go to ensure you’ve secured sync rights to “Side Show” from someone with free and clear standing to assign them? If there’s any unsettled dispute about that standing, what obligation does the licensor have to disclose it?
And there’s another element here…
Here’s a “SideShow” track with over 3 million views on YouTube and some big name bay area DJ’s and producers involved.
Okay, so right off the bad, while it doesn’t appear to sample 415’s track, it has a similar motif in its beat.
But 415’s SideShow is one of lots of records to sample “Sunshine,” by Earth, Wind & Fire and that’s where that motif originates.
So whomever owns the rights to 415’s Sideshow, did they clear the Earth Wind and Fire sample in the first place, such that they can license it to a TV show?
Apple’s deep pockets are getting sued right along with familiar NBCUniversal and Amblin Entertainment, but really this looks much more to be an ongoing matter between a couple of production companies, the aforementioned plaintiff JED Productions, and Nakamiche Music.
Will be very interesting to keep an eye on how this goes.