George Clinton Denied Rights To His Own Work

Judge upholds 1983 contract forfeiting rights to One Nation Under a Groove, 'Atomic Dog.'

P-Funk fans may say this ruling is funked-up.

A Tallahassee, Florida, judge ruled on Monday that legendary funk master George Clinton does not own rights to any of the music he wrote from 1976 to 1983, which would include his contributions to the Funkadelic classics One Nation Under a Groove (1978) and Uncle Jam Wants You (1979) as well as the solo effort Computer Games (1982), which spawned "Atomic Dog."

Without those rights, the man known to many as Dr. Funkenstein is losing out on royalties amounting to $100 million, according to a press release on Clinton's official Web site that has since been removed.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling upheld the validity of a contract Clinton signed in 1983 that forfeited the rights to music written during that period to Michigan-based publishing company Bridgeport Music, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Bridgeport Music President Armen Boladian testified that the deal was struck so his company could recoup an advance of over $1 million that Clinton received before his finances plummeted in the early 1980s.

Even if he had the rights, Clinton, now 60 and living in the Tallahassee area, would not be able to profit from the songs, according to Hinkle's ruling, because he failed to disclose them as possible future income when filing for bankruptcy in 1984.

Clinton's lawsuit, originally filed in 1999, asserted that the Bridgeport contract was never valid. Don Wilson, Clinton's attorney, insisted that the signature on the contract did not belong to his client, though a handwriting expert secured by the defendants testified it was. The plaintiffs also argued that even if the John Hancock was Clinton's, his wife, Stephanie, co-owned the rights to the songs, so the contract would have required her signature in order for the rights to be transferred. The judge ruled otherwise.

The lawsuit also alleged that the Godfather of Funk never received fees from artists who sampled his material from that period.

After the decision, Wilson told the Tallahassee Democrat that there would be no further legal action on the case. Clinton left the courtroom without comment, the paper reported.

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