Old bandmates cannot testify in Sarah McLachlan case
Reuters news release Nov. 4, 1998
By Allan Dowd
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Recording star Sarah McLachlan won an early round in a copyright battle over her debut album when a judge refused Tuesday to hear testimony from two members of a band McLachlan played with as a teenager.
The Grammy-winning singer and her Canadian record company have been sued by producer Darryl Neudorf, who is seeking shared-songwriting credit for four songs he claims to have co-authored on McLachlan's 1988 album ``Touch.'' That release was not originally a big seller but helped McLachlan land a U.S. recording contract.
McLachlan, 30, a Vancouver resident, has since become a music star with such albums as ``Surfacing'' and by organizing the popular all-female music tour known as Lilith Fair.
She won two Grammy Awards in February for best pop vocal and best pop instrumental.
Vancouver Judge Bruce Cohen agreed with McLachlan's lawyers that testimony from two members of October Game was only ''marginally relevant'' to Neudorf's claim. She played with the former band in the 1980s while a teenager in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Neudorf said the testimony would have shown McLachlan also claimed improper credit for songs other October Game members had written. The singer's attorneys claimed the move to call her former bandmates to the witness stand was merely an attempt to ''blacken'' her name and to allow other people to sue.
Neudorf's attorney said his client was brought into a musical collaboration when Nettwerk Records realized McLachlan, then 19, lacked the songwriting skills to complete the album, but the company then denied this because executives at the label wanted to promote her as a ``singer-songwriter.''
``Essentially what he was called out to do is help the songs get together. To get the record together,'' lawyer Jonathan Simkin told Cohen -- who is hearing the case in the British Columbia Supreme Court without a jury.
McLachlan has acknowledged working with Neudorf, but denied that his contribution amounted to co-authorship. Neudorf was paid for some of his work but not at the royalty rate normally provided for co-authors.
McLachlan, who plans to testify in what she calls a trial about ``fairness,'' played an active role in her defense Tuesday, passing notes to her lawyers with comments about the testimony.
The courtroom is expected to soon resemble a music theory classroom with the playing of McLachlan and Neudorf's music and expert testimony. A guitar sat on the floor a short distance from McLachlan's seat.
Neudorf maintains his prime motivation is getting credit for his work and not becoming rich. Simkin said he will present evidence Neudorf has sought credit since the album was released and long before McLachlan became a star.