Nina Simone’s former husband and business partner should not have the legal right to a number of Simone’s recordings, a federal magistrate judge found. Defendant Andrew Stroud was married to Nina Simone, who died in 2003. Stroud and his companies have been involved in multiple legal battles involving rights to Simone’s recordings.
Four cases are pending in Federal Court involving ownership rights to Simone’s recordings.
In 2008, attorney Steven Ames Brown sued Stroud, claiming he has 40 percent interest in Simone’s recordings, which he recovered from representing her in two earlier lawsuits. Stroud and his production company countersued Brown and Simone’s estate, claiming to be exclusive owner of the disputed recordings, based on a 1972 settlement agreement with his ex-wife.
Brown also sought a court declaration that Sony Music Entertainment owns the recordings that Stroud claims to own.
In 2011, Stroud refused to produce some of the recordings ordered by then-Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s discovery order. The court learned later that Stroud had sold some of Simone’s recordings to an entertainment company called ICU.
In July 2012, U.S. District Judge Donna Ryu sanctioned Stroud for failing to produce the recordings. Days after the sanctions order, Stroud died. His wife Scarlett was put in his place in the pending lawsuits.
Simone’s former attorney Steven Ames Brown then filed a motion for default judgment against Stroud’s estate and companies. Simone’s estate and Sony Music Entertainment also filed motions for default judgment. Brown had claimed a 40 percent interest in Simone’s recordings, which he recovered from representing her in two earlier lawsuits, and sought a court declaration that Sony owns the recordings Stroud claimed to own.
Stroud’s companies and estate opposed all three motions for default judgment on procedural grounds, using the same arguments they used in the motion to reconsider the sanctions order.
In an order this week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins recommended that the court enter an order declaring that Stroud, his estate and companies do not have any right to reproduce “any Nina Simone recordings or audiovisual works.”
Cousins also found the Stroud parties did not have any interest in a number of Simone’s recordings, and that Simone’s estate was the rightful owner of other recordings.
Judge Cousins, in San Francisco, also recommended an injunction against the Stroud parties, prohibiting them from reproducing certain Simone recordings, and that all the music Simone recorded while under contract with RCA should be delivered to Sony.
In a related matter, Cousins recommended the court enter a default judgment against the Stroud parties in a 2007 action wherein Stroud claimed Castle Rock Entertainment and Warner Bros illegally used Simone’s song “Just in Time” in the movie “Before Sunset.”
Cousins found the Stroud parties did not show “any legitimate basis for relief” from the court’s previous dismissal of that action, and recommended entering default judgment against them.