‘Lady Marmalade’ Songwriter Kenny Nolan Files $20M Copyright Lawsuit Against Sony/ATV

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He claims the licenses to dozens of his songs were acquired by the music publisher without his knowledge.

“Lady Marmalade” songwriter Kenny Nolan has filed a $20 million lawsuit against Sony/ATV Music Publishing for breach of contract and copyright infringement, according to court documents filed April 10.

In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, Nolan alleges that Sony/ATV bought the publishing rights to dozens of his compositions without his knowledge and have been failing to pay him his fair share of royalties ever since. He claims that after licensing his 50% share of the publishing rights to 77 compositions -- including "Lady Marmalade" -- to his former co-writer Bob Crewe, Crewe later licensed those compositions to music publisher Stone Diamond. Nolan alleges that Stone Diamond then sold the rights to Sony/ATV without his knowledge or consent.

EMI April Music, EMI Blackwood and Stone Diamond Music Corporation are also named as defendants in the lawsuit. 

“In transactions unknown to Nolan, Sony/ATV ... acquired directly or indirectly from Stone Diamond or each other all Music Publishing Rights licensed to Stone Diamond by Crewe,” the lawsuit reads. “On information and belief, Defendants and each of them assumed, for the benefit of Nolan ... the obligations to account and pay to Nolan all monies due to him pursuant to the Split Publishing Agreement."

Additionally, Nolan claims that after licensing a second set of his compositions to the Wes Farrell Organization and Coral Rock Music Corp. under a separate “series of agreements,” those companies eventually licensed that set of songs to Sony/ATV -- also without his knowledge.

Nolan is seeking a total of at least $20 million to be determined at trial, as well as a “necessary and appropriate” accounting to determine exactly how much money Sony/ATV owes him. 

A representative for Sony/ATV declined to comment.

In addition to “Lady Marmalade” -- which was first recorded by Patti LaBelle and later re-recorded for a contemporary ensemble version by Christina Aguilera, Mýa, P!nk and Lil' Kim for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack -- Nolan co-wrote Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes' 1974 hit “Get Dancin’” and Frankie Valli's Hot 100 chart-topper “My Eyes Adored You." As a solo artist, he wrote and performed the 1976 hit “I Like Dreamin’,”which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.