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Mandy Jiroux countersues Blind Melon in Insane copyright case

By | Published on Wednesday 9 November 2016

Mandy Jiroux

Singer Mandy Jiroux – also known for her YouTube collaborations with Miley Cyrus – has countersued American rockers Blind Melon in the ongoing legal dispute over her rework of their 1993 hit ‘No Rain’.

As previously reported, the band went legal in late August, accusing Jiroux of reworking ‘No Rain’ into her song ‘Insane’ without the required permission. The case centres on mainly email conversations between the respective managers of Blind Melon and Jiroux, and the former’s initial assumption that the singer was planning to record a straight cover of ‘No Rain’ rather than reinventing the track, as she did.

That distinction is important because if Jiroux had recorded a straight cover, she would not have required explicit permission from Blind Melon – or specifically the band’s guitarist Brad Smith, who has a controlling interest in the ‘No Rain’ song copyright – because in the US there is a compulsory licence for covers. Jiroux would simply need to ensure the right paperwork was filed and pay royalties at a statutory rate. However, the compulsory licence does not cover reworks, like Jiroux’s reinvention of ‘No Rain’ as ‘Insane’.

In their lawsuit, Blind Melon said that once they realised that Jiroux was reworking their song, they told her manager, Kenneth Komisar, that he would in fact need a bespoke licence for that release, and that they weren’t persuaded to grant such a licence.

Nevertheless, Komisar continued to send messages to the band’s reps that implied a licensing deal had been done. But Blind Melon say that from that point onwards they continued to stress that ‘Insane’ would not be covered by the compulsory licence, and they weren’t going to provide a bespoke licence.

Once Jiroux’s song was out, but before the lawsuit landed, she told iHeartRadio that her people had sent her track to Blind Melon and “it turned out that they loved the song so much, I’m the only artist that they’ve ever let use that classic hook. It was super natural, super easy, and that’s when you know it’s right. It felt really great, and I just felt very honoured, because they were so huge in the 90s, so it was really just a big honour”.

In her countersuit filed last week, Jiroux argues that her people did get Blind Melon’s permission to rework their song, and therefore the band’s members are now in breach of that agreement for trying to stop the distribution of her record.

The countersuit relies on different interpretations of various emails between Komisar and Blind Melon’s manager Keith Isola. So when Isola wrote that the band were not “interested in supporting a co-write share or splitting the publishing”, Komisar heard “you can release this record, but Blind Melon want all the publishing royalties”. And when Isola wrote that the band had “chosen not to support the track ‘Insane’ at this time”, Komisar heard “Blind Melon don’t want to be in the video or get involved in the promo for the record”.

So that’s fun. Maybe you’re thinking, perhaps these two managers should have got off the email and had a phone call about all this? Well, Komisar says that they did on 20 May, and during that call – he alleges – Isola never said that the band were denying permission for ‘Insane’. In fact, according to Jiroux’s countersuit, “the only issue Isola discussed was how much money Blind Melon would make on the licence”.

There also seems to be a bit of confusion over what order everything happened in, with the Blind Melon side arguing that at least some of the positive messages which they sent that the Jiroux side have since re-presented were in fact written before they realised that the singer was going to rework their song.

So, should it get that far, the court is going to have to put all the correspondence in order and then work out what any ambiguous statements actually mean. Or it could just ask Komisar why he didn’t seek a written contract from Team Melon confirming everything before ‘Insane’ was released.

The dispute continues.