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Papa Left Quite a Mess: James Brown's Children Sue Estate for Royalties

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

James Brown gave the world a trove of classic soul music before he passed away in 2006. But he also left quite a mess in his personal life and estate. And now six of Brown's biological children are suing his allegedly bigamous surviving spouse, claiming she "embarked on a series of duplicitous business machinations calculated to deprive Brown's children of their rightful interests in Brown's music under the Copyright Act and divert the financial proceeds from such interests to herself."

You can read the full lawsuit, along with some salacious allegations, below.

Papa's Got a Brand New Problem

The plaintiffs (Deanna Brown-Thomas, Yamma Brown, Venisha Brown, Michael D. Brown, Nicole C. Brown, Jeanette Mitchell Bellinger, Sarah Latonya Fegan, Ciara Pettit, and Cherquarius Williams) claim not only that Tommie Rae Hynie was already married to another man when she married Brown, but that her son, "conspicuously named" James Joseph Brown II, may not be Brown's child.

According to the lawsuit, neither Hynie nor her son was named as a beneficiary in Brown's will, "to no one's surprise." Yet a judge ruled that she was officially Brown's widow, throwing control of Brown estate into disarray.

The Payback

The crux of the lawsuit comes down to Brown's "termination rights" to his music, which his children claim are "the most important interest under the Copyright Act." And the battle for those rights has been bloody, legally speaking

In violation of the Copyright Act and their common-law duties, HYNIE and JAMES II have conspired with the other Defendants (the personal representative and trustee and the limited special administrator and special trustee of Brown's estate and trust, respectively) to usurp Plaintiffs' rights and interests in Brown's Compositions, and to divert for Defendants' sole benefit the financial proceeds they are obligated to share with Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and based thereon allege that, among other brazen conduct, Defendants have concealed illegal back-room agreements deliberately designed to destroy, circumvent and/or dilute Plaintiffs' interests. Defendants' illicit trafficking in the termination interests violates the Copyright Act and the strong legislative policies behind its termination provisions. Decisive Court intervention is needed to prevent Defendants from destroying Plaintiffs' valuable copyright interests in the Compositions, and their state common-law rights to an allocate share of the proceeds derived therefrom.

Here's the full lawsuit:

James Brown Children v Hynie by FindLaw on Scribd

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