A company associated with Merle Haggard is suing a music firm in Los Angeles federal court for allegedly refusing to pay royalties and using the name and likeness of the late country singer without consent.
Hag LLC’s lawsuit against Smith Music Group & Smith Entertainment seeks unspecified damages. The case was filed last month in Superior Court but was moved to federal court on Monday.
A representative for Fort Worth, Texas-based Smith Music Group could not be immediately reached for comment on the complaint.
According to the lawsuit, the parties had three agreements with Haggard, the last of which expired in October 2009. The first provided for the sale and license of “Merle Haggard, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas,” and later called “Merle Haggard, Motorcycle Cowboy, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas,” the suit states.
The second agreement allowed for the sale and license of “Merle Haggard, Ol’ Country Singer Cowboy, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas,” while the third and final pact called for the same rights regarding, “Merle Haggard, I Wish I Was Santa Claus,” according to the suit.
During the terms of the agreements, Smith Music Group refused to regularly pay to Hag LLC and account for the royalties and other amounts due the plaintiff, the suit alleges.
After the expiration of the final agreement, Smith Music Group continued to sell and license all three works “in reckless regard for the rights of Hag and in material breach of the agreements” and also did not provide accountings to the plaintiff or pay proceeds due, the plaintiff alleges.
Hag LLC alleges Smith Music Group continues to use Haggard’s name and likeness to promote the albums and other products, once again in violation of the agreements, and has “refused to meaningfully communicate” with the plaintiff despite Hag’s numerous efforts with verbal and written notices.
Despite Hag LLC’s demand that Smith Music Group stop using Haggard’s name and likeness for promotional purposes, the defendants continue to do so in breach of the agreements, the suit alleges.
Haggard died of pneumonia at age 79 in Shasta County in April 2016.
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