Composers Robert and Aron Marderosian are accusing Warner Bros. of being devilish for using music they wrote and recorded in Fox’s series Lucifer without giving them credit or payment. The Marderosians, known as the Mardos, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in February. According to the stated facts, fellow composer Marco Beltrami approached the Mardos for help with composing and producing a theme for the show back in October 2015. The lawsuit doesn’t mince words, describing Beltrami as “desperate” because the music he had created so far kept being rejected, and that the Mardos agreed to create a musical work “that would likely be more acceptable to Warner Bros. than Beltrami’s prior attempts.” Beltrami and the Mardos then verbally agreed that the Mardos would be credited as co-writers if the final theme music were based on their work; the Mardos would also be co-owners of the copyright and entitled to any compensation/royalties. The agreement was never written down as planned, and the Mardos never entered into any agreement with Warner Bros.
The Mardos then wrote, recorded and produced a three-and-a-half minute master recording called “Pay the Price” a/k/a “Being Evil Has a Price,” which featured instrumentals and vocals by the Mardos. They gave the track to Beltrami the following month for submission to Warner Bros. for consideration. Warner Bros. eventually selected six seconds of their master recording as the theme to Lucifer. When the Mardos realized Warner Bros. had chosen their work, they contacted the company to reach an agreement concerning their compensation, credit and copyright interests, but nothing got a response.
In January 2016, the Mardos and Beltrami agreed that the writers’ portion of the music publishing in the Lucifer theme—but not in the full composition of “Pay the Price” a/k/a “Being Evil Has a Price”—could be split amongst the parties on the cue sheet, which is for documenting music in film and television so that royalties can be paid out. There was also an additional agreement with Beltrami that the Mardos would get on-screen title card credit on each episode of Lucifer when it debuted, which would read, “Main title theme written and performed by Heavy Young Heathens,” the duo’s professional name. The Mardos asserted that even though Lucifer received a first season order after its January 25th, 2016 premiere and was renewed for a second season, with the theme they wrote still being used, they have not received credit or compensation.
For the copyright claim against Warner Bros, the Mardos argued that they are the owners of the master recording of “Pay the Price” a/k/a “Being Evil Has a Price” and it is under their exclusive control. They have also filed a copyright application to register their ownership of the master and the composition with the United States Copyright Office, which are copyrights in the sound recording and the lyrics, respectively. “Beginning in January 2016 and continuing until the present, defendants Warner Bros. have infringed Plaintiffs’ Master and Composition by (among other things) unlawfully reproducing and distributing copies of them and/or by creating unauthorized derivative works based thereon,” said the complaint. “Plaintiffs are also informed and believe and based thereon allege that Warner Bros., without license or authority (directly and/or through one or more of its affiliated entities), purportedly registered the publisher’s share of the composition ‘Lucifer Main Title Theme’ with BMI on or around August 16th 2016, and also purported to register the publisher’s share of a composition apparently titled ‘Lucifer’ with BMI on or around September 15th, 2016.” (BMI is a rights management company.) The Mardos reiterated that they did not authorize or consent, explicitly or impliedly, to any of the actions Warner Bros. has taken with the six seconds of the song.
They are suing Beltrami and his company for breach of contract over the agreement from October 2015 about song credit and compensation/royalties, and the additional agreement that was made in January 2016. They are also suing Beltrami for fraud/deceit, claiming that he never intended to keep his promises.
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