Lucifer Morningstar should know something about ironclad contracts, if anyone does. But as reported by The Wrap, someone over at Warner Bros. allegedly slipped up by using title theme music they didn’t have the rights to. Now two musicians who claim they both wrote and recorded the title theme for Lucifer are suing the studio for not giving them partial credit and proper remuneration.
While this case won’t exactly be Lucifer Morningstar versus Daniel Webster, for the parties involved it’s fairly important. In federal court in California, Robert Marderosian and Aron Marderosian are contending that Marco Beltrami – the highly respected composer for projects like 3:10 to Yuma and The Hurt Locker – came to them requesting their help with a theme for a new television show named Lucifer, which features the titular character Lucifer Morningstar.
As the Marderosians report it, Beltrami indicated to them he was having problems providing Warner Bros. with a theme they thought captured the nature of the Lucifer Morningstar character. The Marderosians allege that they both composed and recorded a theme that was in fact presented by Beltrami and accepted by the studio. As the filed complaint puts it:
“When Beltrami approached the Mardos, he was desperate. Beltrami was not able to capture the essence of what Warner Bros. and NS Pictures were looking for in the main title theme for the Series, and each of the musical works previously composed and submitted by Beltrami to Warner Bros. and NS Pictures had been rejected.”
According to the plaintiffs, the understanding between themselves and Beltrami was that they would share both credit and ownership for the theme. They contend that instead of honoring this agreement, Beltrami told Warner Bros. studio and the producers of the show that he had sole rights to the theme, denying the Marderosians both credit and potential profits. The following is according to the complaint filed in California federal court.
“Plaintiffs are informed and believe and based thereon allege that Beltrami failed to inform Warner Bros. or NS Pictures of his agreement with Plaintiffs. Instead, Plaintiffs are informed and believe and based thereon allege that Beltrami passed off the Master and Composition as his own original work and fraudulently represented and warranted to NS Pictures and Warner Bros. that Beltrami owned and controlled all right, title and interest therein.”
Lucifer Morningstar in Copyright Hell
Of course, Lucifer Morningstar would himself play the part of devil’s advocate in this by suggesting that countless individuals have sued Hollywood studios in the past claiming the rights to scripts, characters or music that it turned out they didn’t really have the rights to it all. This is why studios are generally so careful about avoiding even the appearance of such a misstep, since it will inevitably lead to a lawsuit.
In fact, most studios refuse to even accept unsolicited scripts mailed to them from individual writers because of the possible liability issues that can crop up if – purely by coincidence – some later show they produce bears a vague resemblance to something some writer thought up years before. They only accept such materials from agents they’ve worked with before.
Whether the Marderosians are presenting accurate statements about what really happened is – of course – for the court to judge. The liability of the studio and the producers – versus that of the composer Beltrami who represented to Warner Bros. that the theme was his own work – is also something that would have to be considered by the judge. It would be extremely unfortunate if the studio had to come up with a new theme for the show, since the current one so perfectly fits the character of Lucifer Morningstar.
[Featured Image by 20th Century Fox]