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Author Topic: Zulu family sues Disney over "Lion Sleeps Tonight"
Zapruder, On the Trail of Asparagus
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Zulu Family Sues Disney Over "Lion" Song

JOHANNESBURG, July 2 (AFP) - A poor South African family is taking US entertainment giant Disney to court for unpaid royalties from the hit song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", originally a Zulu tune composed by their late father, lawyers said on Friday.

[ 11. March 2006, 06:59 AM:   snopes ]

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Hell's Granny
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It sounds like the family deserve some of those royalties:
quote:
This one's for Solomon Linda, then, a Zulu who wrote a melody that earned untold millions for white men but died so poor that his widow couldn't afford a stone for his grave.
Where Does The Lion Sleep Tonight?

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Amateur Sleuth
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So why didn't they sue the Tokens for their recording of the song?
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Cervus
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Because Disney has much more money.

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Hell's Granny
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If you read all the article in the URL I posted, it explains why the family didn't sue before.
Basically, Solomon Linda didn't have a contract, he didn't copyright the song (his recording company did that as soon as it got popular) and the royalties went to a variety of recording companies, music publishers and musicians/singers/arrangers who had adapted the piece for individual recordings; most of the latter genuinely thought it was an traditional African folk song that was out of copyright.
A tiny, irregular trickle of money found its way back to the Linda family over the years, but it only amounted to a couple of thousand dollars in total - certainly not enough to pay lawyers to fight through the rat's nest of recording and publishing rights that emmeshed the song almost from its first incarnation as a hit.

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snopes
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Based on what little information is available, it sounds to me like the plaintiffs don't really have a case against Disney.

Disney is (I would assume) paying royalties to the current rightsholder of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." If the plaintiffs believe that they have a better claim to the copyright for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" than the current rightsholder (because it was based on an earlier work by a family member), then their remedy is to sue the current rightsholder. I don't see that they have a basis for suing Disney if Disney has been paying royalties to the duly recognized copyright owner.

- snopes

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Moosedog
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
Based on what little information is available, it sounds to me like the plaintiffs don't really have a case against Disney.

Disney is (I would assume) paying royalties to the current rightsholder of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." If the plaintiffs believe that they have a better claim to the copyright for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" than the current rightsholder (because it was based on an earlier work by a family member), then their remedy is to sue the current rightsholder. I don't see that they have a basis for suing Disney if Disney has been paying royalties to the duly recognized copyright owner.

- snopes

This would be the case under US law, but they are suing in South Africa; South African law my be different.
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Suburban Legend
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It says in the article that Disney was chosen for the lawsuit because they are the "most active user" of the song. I'm guessing, though, that another reason could be that suing such a large and well-known company would bring more attention to their cause.

[ 11. March 2006, 07:01 AM:   snopes ]

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snopes
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quote:
This would be the case under US law, but they are suing in South Africa; South African law my be different.
That's true, but if they sue in a South African court and win, they don't really have jurisdiction to enforce the judgement and collect any damages awarded to them. As the article notes, about the best they could do is to un-register Disney's trademarks in South Africa and re-sell them.

- snopes

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snopes
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South African family settles 'Lion Sleeps Tonight' lawsuit

The family of South African composer Solomon Linda has reached a settlement in the lawsuit over his world-famous song The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

http://www.cbc.ca/story/arts/national/2006/02/17/linda-lion-lawsuit.html

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Mickey is a Hanukkah Bush
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BTW, the thing you guys are talking about, saying that Disney has more money, hence the reason the Linda family is suing them, is called deep pockets.

Yay law field parents (my mom was a paralegal before a substitute elementary school teacher)

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Alex Buchet
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Pete Seeger once asserted that there's a political subtext to the song.

The lion would be King Chaka, and the song would be stating that great Chaka sleeps, but will one day awaken-- symbolising the awakening of the Zulu Nation.

I kind of like that interpretation, especially as it resonates with other 'sleeping heroes' in legend, such as King Arthur or Frederick Barbarossa.

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Troberg
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quote:
Based on what little information is available, it sounds to me like the plaintiffs don't really have a case against Disney.

Disney is (I would assume) paying royalties to the current rightsholder of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." If the plaintiffs believe that they have a better claim to the copyright for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" than the current rightsholder (because it was based on an earlier work by a family member), then their remedy is to sue the current rightsholder. I don't see that they have a basis for suing Disney if Disney has been paying royalties to the duly recognized copyright owner.

I would say that the correct thing to do is to sue both of them, Disney for failing to pay royalties to the real copyright holder and the fake copyright holder for falsely pretending to be the real.

I doubt they can win, but it's worth a try.

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put it in writing
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They won.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20060322-1550-safrica-sleepinglions.html

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Mickey is a Hanukkah Bush
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hm. That last line is interesting...

quote:
That appears to have been a turning point, though Disney never was sued in the court case


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Lainie
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quote:
According to family lore, he wrote the song in a matter of minutes and was inspired by his childhood tasks of chasing prowling lions from the cattle he herded.
I'll may use this the next time DD complains about having to take the garbage out.

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Dareyawes
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
...if they sue in a South African court and win, they don't really have jurisdiction to enforce the judgement and collect any damages awarded to them. As the article notes, about the best they could do is to un-register Disney's trademarks in South Africa and re-sell them.

- snopes

[silliness]
OOH OOH!! UNLESS Disney opens up a spanking new wonderful fantabulous Disney Thirdworld in South Africa!!!

But why would they do that if there's a settlement hanging over their heads.

Hmmm... It looks like this woman is on the verge of screwing her country out of a chance to host the Happiest Most Magical Place on Earth (Squee!). That earns her a seat in the Hot Place when she dies.
[/silliness]

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