Federal Judge Closes Curb Records’ Lawsuit Against Tim McGraw
A federal judge has decided that Curb Records’ lawsuit against Tim McGraw is not ready to proceed at the federal level.
According to Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper, US District Judge William H. Haynes ruled Friday (Aug. 9), saying state courts have not yet weighed in on the two parties’ contract dispute, as well as rights to past recordings. He administratively closed the federal case.
It’s the latest round in a complicated series of legal disputes that date back to May of 2011, when Curb filed suit against the ‘Southern Girl’ singer, alleging breach of contract. The label claimed that McGraw turned in his ‘Emotional Traffic’ album too quickly, in violation of a contract clause that obligated him to space his albums at least 18 months apart. Curb refused to release the album, while McGraw argued that it fulfilled his contract.
The singer filed a countersuit, saying Curb had kept him in an ongoing state of “involuntary servitude” by forcing him to wait so long to record new albums. His filing claimed that was a way to stretch out his contract indefinitely. McGraw’s suit also alleged that Curb’s decision to release a total of seven greatest hits albums was a ploy to extend his contract against his will.
In November of 2011, a Nashville court ruled that McGraw was free to record for another label while he waited for the case to be heard. McGraw signed with Big Machine Records in May of 2012, and he released a new album with them, ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’ on Feb. 5, 2013. The album reached No. 1 in the Billboard Country charts and has spawned a string of hit singles including ‘Truck Yeah,’ ‘One of Those Nights’ and ‘Highway Don’t Care.’
Last September, an appeals court upheld the the previous ruling that McGraw was free to record elsewhere. In February, the Supreme Court refused to hear another appeal from Curb. The label responded by suing McGraw for copyright infringement in April, claiming he was still under contract to them when he recorded ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’ and that those tracks were the property of the label.
Friday’s ruling means those issues have to be decided at a state level before they can be heard at a federal level. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the case has come to an end; Judge Haynes closed the case, but it can be re-opened once the relevant issues are settled at the state level.
Still, McGraw’s team sees it as a victory. Big Machine Label Group President and CEO Scott Borchetta issued the following statement Friday in response to the new ruling:
“We’re very pleased that the District Court has dismissed Curb Records’ lawsuit against Tim McGraw and Big Machine Records. Our number one goal and intention at the Big Machine Label Group is to sign great artists with great vision and do everything in our power to create an environment for them to do their best work.
Since Tim McGraw has been a member of Big Machine Records, everyone has witnessed an incredible surge in popularity and demand for his musical releases and live performances. His sales and airplay results rival the best of his career. And we’re just getting started…”