Explained: Why did Heavy Young Heathens sue Olympic silver medalist figure skaters Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier?
On Thursday, February 24, music group Heavy Young Heathens filed a lawsuit against American figure skating duo Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier shortly after winning a silver medal at the recent Winter Olympics.
What is the trial?
The US-based team, made up of brothers and songwriters Aron Marderosian and Robert Marderosian, filed a lawsuit against their country’s figure skating duo over the use of their version of the folk song House of the Rising Sun, without the permission of the artists. The song was used in the trailer for director Antoine Fuqua’s action western film The Magnificent Seven (2016).
In their lawsuit, the musicians also accused NBC of copyright infringement since the routine aired on the channel. Knierim and Frazier won the silver medal in the team figure skating event. The lawsuit calls the song “a very valuable licensing asset” and in addition to damages money, it also asked that any future replays be blocked as it would result in infringement by the skaters and NBC. The lawsuits also said the breach caused irreparable harm to the brothers. “These violations cause great harm to the value of [the Marderosians] order for such a well-known track from their catalog of recordings and insult the integrity of their professional reputation. While [the defendants] all benefit from the revenue generated by the 2022 Winter Olympics, [the Marderosians] have been and continue to be deprived of what their creation House of the Rising Sun earns them by license,” reads the lawsuit filed by the musicians’ father, Mick Marderosian. The duo also accused other companies such as Fox Sports, Discovery Inc and Warner Brothers of abusing their work and filed lawsuits which were later settled.
Who are the Heavy Young Heathens?
An artistic partnership between brother Aron Marderosian and Robert Marderosian, the Los Angeles-based musical group went public after composing for Punk’d (2013-2015) – a hidden camera reality TV series created by Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg. Known for their bass and drum sound, the two have recorded extensively for movies, movie trailers, and TV shows. Of these, the most notable are Jersey Shore, CSI, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, and The Simpsons, among others. They also composed and performed the main theme of the famous Netflix series Lucifer. The two also created music for The Amazing Spiderman and Expendables 2 trailers.
Is the House of the Rising Sun owned by Heavy Young Heathens?
The version of the song used by Knierim and Frazier was by Heavy Young Heathens. However, the song itself is an American folk song, which was recorded by a few singers in the 1930s and 1940s, including Noetown-based Georgia Turner. It is not known where Turner first heard the song, but it is widely believed that she heard it from another local singer named Clarence Ashley. Turner had recorded the song on American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s Presto disk recorder, given to him by the Library of Congress for his first solo field recording expedition. After that, the song was recorded as a folk standard by Woody Guthrie, Josh White and Pete Seeger, among others, but it was the folk-rock version of the song by British band The Animals that sat the world and take note. . As the story goes, Bob Dylan was so thrilled he jumped out of his car after listening to it.
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Do figure skaters need to license the music they skate to?
Yes, they do. Olympic routines fall under the category of live performances and require a licensing agreement, which in this case would have had to be handled by the broadcaster – NBC. Skaters are generally not involved in the paperwork required to license the music they play to. Live performance license is also not very expensive compared to sync license which is purchased for songs in TV shows or movies. If the song is by someone as big as The Beatles, the fees will likely be extremely high.