Tom Petty’s recent passing highlighted a brilliant musical career. His melodies and easy going musical nature thrilled millions. However, Tom Petty also has a significant legal legacy that benefited millions when he fought for musicians’ rights and rock fans alike.
In the early 1980’s Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers stood their ground (as the song says) while recording the historic album Damn The Torpedoes and the 1981 album, Hard Promises. Petty and the Heartbreakers went through a grueling legal battle after the sale of their label to MCA. They fought it out in court, having to declare bankruptcy as part of the process, and fought for the right to declare themselves free agents. It was a monumental contract fight and they eventually entered into a musician friendly contract with MCA. After the lawsuit, Petty was quoted as saying, “It was really the only time in my life I felt like justice was done.” His travails were well documented in a 1980 article by Mikal Gilmore In Rolling Stone.
Petty was also involved in another battle with his label’s “Superstar Pricing” regarding their album, Hard Promises. Superstar Pricing was a pricing program introduced by MCA where the album’s shelf price was inflated from $8.98 to $9.98. Petty, ever sensitive to the workingman’s everyday financial difficulties, objected to the inflated pricing after being lead to believe that it would follow the traditional pricing structures. He won the right to sell his album for less than the Superstar Pricing, a victory for both musicians and rock fans alike.
Petty’s fights against his label and billion dollar corporations demonstrates the importance of the remedies available in the American judicial system. While MCA had a massive bank and perceived leverage, Petty refused to allow his album to be released until he was properly treated. Avoiding express contract terms is difficult. However, Petty’s situation demonstrates the importance of two aspects of a contractual relationship, before and after.
First, his dispute with MCA demonstrates the importance of negotiating fair, enforceable and equitable terms with an anticipation of future occurrences and changes in relationships. Second, the dispute demonstrates the importance of enforcing a properly written contract through litigation, if necessary. Contracts are in writing for a reason. They spell out the rights and remedies of the parties. In addition, all contracts require a duty of good faith and fair dealing surrounding those terms.
The Patberg Law Firm has handled many such disputes over the past twenty-five (25) years. PLF has negotiated terms and enforced those terms in Court. Most firms do one or the other while PLF does both. There are remedies for those who wrongfully suffer infringement on their contractual rights. Parties have the right to have the well negotiated terms protected and free from interference. If your contractual rights have been violated or you need assistance in negotiating terms of a contractual relationship or simply need to understand those rights, contact Rolf Patberg at The Patberg Law Firm at (412) 232-3500 or email Attorney Patberg at Rpatberg@patberglawfirm.com.