Love, Henley Testimony Could Lead To New Contract Laws

State senator using hearings to decide whether to pursue closing music industry's loophole.

Courtney Love and Don Henley will have their chance to rage against the record industry machine next month when they testify before a California Senate committee.

State Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles), a former music agent, is chairing a hearing to help him decide whether to pursue legislation that could prove pivotal in freeing artists from long-term contracts (see "Record Industry Scrutinized By California, Federal Officials").

The hearing, which also will examine other music industry customs, will be held September 5 in the State Capitol Building in Sacramento, according to Murray's office.

The committee will discuss California Labor Code Section 2855, a 56-year-old statute that says any entertainer working under a personal-service contract cannot be held to a contract for more than seven years. Record companies secured an amendment in 1987 that made artists under contract liable for albums still owed to labels even after seven years.

"Clearly there is an exemption to this statute that only affects recording artists, so we have to understand why that is," Murray said earlier this month. "I'm not sure that this exemption is even good for record companies. It's ambiguous in many ways."

Love is currently in a high-profile legal battle with Universal Music Group, claiming that major labels, acting together as an illegal trust, force artists to sign unfair contracts (see "Courtney Love Hits Speed Bump In Label Fight").

Attorney Don Engel, who testified against the 1987 amendment, also will participate in next month's hearings.

"This is an extremely important hearing," said Engel, who has represented such artists as Henley, Olivia Newton-John and Toni Braxton in their legal battles with labels. "There is a systematic, pervasive attitude on the part of the record labels to take every opportunity to take advantage of artists. As long as [this amendment] is on the books, it's a threat to artists."