Without festive Christmas carols, what would the sound of Christmas be like? The answer is… we don’t know. It’s simply impossible to imagine.
Thankfully, we live in a world where songs like “Feliz Navidad,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, and “Joy to the World” exist. Christmas songs are a gift, and come the holidays, they cause merriment in the hearts of many. But not everyone is a fan, and in some cases, holiday tunes are the cause of tribulation rather than jubilation.
No love from Darlene Love
Every singer who has recorded a Christmas song wants to hear his or her song played everywhere during the yuletide season. Christmas songs that stand the test of time rake in big bucks in royalties for years and years.
Darlene Love, however, did not jump for joy (to the world) when her rendition of the Christmas classic, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” was used in an HGTV ad without her consent. It’s worth noting that Ms. Love did not write or produce the song even though her rendition is, arguably, one of the song’s most distinctive versions.
So she sued Scripps Network, the company that broadcast the ads, for depriving her of “the right to control the use of her identity in connection with the advertising of goods and services.” That is, she sued for being tricked into promoting products and services without her knowledge. She eventually dropped the $75,000 lawsuit that claimed her publicity rights were violated.
This isn’t the only lawsuit she’d file involving a song that she recorded. In another case, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee sued Google for a similar case involving a smartphone ad.
Advertisers and broadcasting networks, take note: stay away from Darlene Love Christmas tunes when promoting your wares.
You’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all
One may argue that country Christmas songs all sound alike. But Australian singer-songwriter Alan Caswell can supposedly distinguish the differences between compositions.
When he brought suit against his music publisher Sony Australia, he cited that the refrain in the Alabama Christmas song “Christmas in Dixie” (released in 1982) sounded similar to his 1979 song “On the Inside.”
The lawsuit was dismissed, with the court citing that the central element of both songs was "one of the most basic and common harmonic patterns in all music."
Alabama founding member Teddy Gentry defended his band by saying that he had never heard of Mr. Caswell’s song until after he had to because of the copyright infringement complaint. In lawsuits of this nature, that is all the defense you’ll ever need.
Deck with prison halls with boughs of holly
There are worse things than being made to listen to Christmas ditties on an endless loop. For some prisoners at the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, it is the equivalent of doing time in solitary confinement.
That’s too bad for them because Joe Arpaio, one of the jail’s sheriffs, is extremely fond of Christmas music. In six separate lawsuits, six inmates in the Phoenix Jail complained of having their ears assaulted by “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow,” and whatever else was on the sheriff’s holiday playlist.
They claimed that being forced to listen to them for 12 hours a day was a violation of their civil and religious rights and a cruel and unusual punishment. That reasoning would have given the Grinch himself a run for his money.
For Sheriff Arpaio’s act of cruelty, they demanded $250,000 in damages. The infamous sheriff, however, was let off the lawsuit. The court recognized the sheriff’s right to bring a little holiday cheer with Santa-approved tunes into the lives of prisoners and prison staff who didn’t mind hearing soaring melodies from Alvin and the Chipmunks and Bing Crosby for hours on end.
A no-show CeeLo
In a case involving The Voice judge and “Forget You” singer CeeLo Green, people got upset when they didn’t hear him sing holiday songs.
In November 2011, concert promoter Cierra Management Group sued CeeLo’s management team for reneging on an agreement to perform a Christmas show. The show, originally called “12 Days of Christmas,” was eventually truncated to just “6 Days of Christmas” when Cierra told team CeeLo that they could not afford 12 days.
The two parties eventually agreed on a two-show deal, but Cierra was devastated when CeeLo was a no-show.
If anyone’s guilty of anything, it is the crime of depriving people of the joy of hearing CeeLo perform a medley of his only hit “Forget You” and Christmas classics like “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “This Christmas.”
Here at our Renton law offices, we don’t mind Christmas tunes ourselves. That is, except when they contain controversial lyrics that encourage manipulation, depict situations that evoke potential family law issues, or remind us of motor vehicle accident lawsuits. Should you need lawyers for any of those issues, we’re the team to call.