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Facts about the LES DJINNS Court Case

Different versions of the story about the TURKISH SHOWBIZ vs. LES DJINNS case have been spread around the Internet in many languages. However, here is the explanation based on the facts from the Court of Copenhagen, and the documents of the Case.

The story begins, when the three members of Djuma Soundsystem, Mikkas Skulstad, Lars Bjarno Jensen, and Frantz Vilmer Thomasen, sampled the guitar introduction theme, which is the whole melody, of the track TURKISH SHOWBIZ from the original 1985 vinyl album “Marmaris Love” by Atilla Engin Group. All copyright information is clearly printed on the album sleeve, and record label. When Djuma Soundsystem released their various mixes, titled LES DJINNS – including up to three minutes sample playing time (in “Trentemoller_re-mix” 108 seconds = 30%) – at EMI in 2003, they did not say anything about using samples. Neither did they say it, when registering their work for copyright by the KODA Denmark organization – if they did, KODA would withhold all copyright fees, until they provided a written permission from the owner. The samples were a secret between the three members of Djuma Soundsystem, according to their statements in the Court.

In July 2006 LES DJINNS was re-released by Get Physical Music in Germany, and published by Wasabi/Universal. That was also the time when Djuma Soundsystem got “cold feet’s”, as they said. One member, Frantz Vilmer Thomasen, had left the group and wished to use the successful sample again on his own solo album. He also wished to use some guitar improvisation, which could not be extracted from the original recording. He contacted the original guitar player, who said, that he would gladly play it again, but as it was a work of Atilla Engin, he insisted on permission had been obtained from the composer. That was when Frantz Vilmer Thomasen in November 2006 made his first contact to Atilla Engin, asking for permission to use 10 seconds of the guitar solo, the introduction from TURKISH SHOWBIZ in a new work called RAMADAN, sample or re-record, saying that the original guitar player was positive for re-recording. But Frantz Vilmer Thomasen did not mention LES DJINNS, nor Djuma Soundsystem, and that he had already used Atilla Engins composition three years before. Atilla Engin gave permission for 10 seconds on the condition of 20% of all income.

That was a test, Djuma Soundsystem admitted in the Court, to see if Atilla Engin were positive. If he were positive, they would try to also get permission for LES DJINNS. That would be “smart to clear both tracks at the same time”. About a month later Frantz Vilmer Thomasen wrote to Atilla Engin and said, that he had used the guitar theme from TURKISH SHOWBIZ again in another project of his, a track called LES JIIN. He asked, if he could have same deal? He misspelled the title – Frantz Vilmer Thomasen says that he suffers from dyslexia – and he still did not mention Djuma Soundsystem, or that a track including Atilla Engin’s composition had been released back in 2003 by EMI, and re-released in July by Get Physical Music. Frantz Vilmer Thomasen promised to register the shares at KODA Denmark, and said he would send contracts to be signed. The contracts were never signed and the two parts lost contact. [See the full correspondence here, in Danish]

However, Frantz Vilmer Thomasen did release RAMADAN, and registered only his own name as composer at KODA. Neither LES DJINNS were re-registered with Atilla Engin’s name, nor KODA informed about samples.

Only in January 2008 Atilla Engin learned about the release of RAMADAN, and found out, that a lot more than 10 seconds of his composition were used – more than 130 seconds – that his name was not registered at KODA, as promised by Frantz Vilmer Thomasen, nor were he credited as composer. The original guitar player told him about another mix, made by Trentemoller, and gave a link to YouTube. Atilla Engin, still not knowing about LES DJINNS, contacted Frantz Vilmer Thomasen, and asked about the missing KODA registration and credits – and “what about this Trentemoller thing?” After some communication Frantz Vilmer Thomasen admitted in Februar 2008, that LES DJINNS were released by EMI in 2003, but only as a promo white label in maybe 1-200 pieces for DJ’s. That was when the case started rolling, as releases of Djuma Soundsystem’s LES DJINNS – Atilla Engin’s composition – could be found all over. Furthermore Atilla Engin learned, that Djuma Soundsystem did not replay his composition, but used samples from the original 1985-recording – he then contacted his former Danish record company and publisher, Per Meistrup.

Later, in 2010, the EMI royalty statements from the 2003-releases where finally documented, clearly revealing various commercial catalogue numbers, and amounts of thousands of sold units. The EMI royalties are not included in the below amounts.

The verdict from the Court of Copenhagen (Københavns Byret) at September 26th 2011 says that the three members of Djuma Soundsystem has been unwarranted to use the copyright protected composition of Atilla Engin, and the original copyright protected recording of the work. The Court of Copenhagen has not given a fine, which is up to a criminal court. The Court of Copenhagen has stated a so-called reasonable fee, and a further compensation for damage and expenses.

The fee is based on the earnings of royalties and composition copyright, clearly specified in the full text of the Verdict. According to Djuma Soundsystem’s own royalty statements (the defendants Court documents Ab – Ak), the amount for 2003 to 2008 is 368,000 dkk (Danish kroner) of which 219,000 dkk has been paid out to the artist. The remaining balance is withheld. The Court has granted the owner of the original recording, Per Meistrup Productions Co., 50%, which is 184,000 dkk.

The copyright earnings, the composer and publisher fees, has been calculated by the Danish copyright organizations KODA (performance rights), and NCB (mechanical rights), to be a total of 480,000 dkk by October 2009, of which 23,000 dkk has been paid out. The remaining balance is partly paid to Universal Music & Partners, and partly withheld by the copyright organizations. The money figure is not the important part, as most money have been withheld by the copyright organizations – it is the split of shares, 12th performance rights, and percentage mechanical rights, which are important. The Court has decided, that LES DJINNS is an arrangement of TURKISH SHOWBIZ and the composer rights belongs to the original composer, Atilla Engin, hereunder his publisher, PMP Music / Per Meistrup Productions Co., who accept to grant Universal Music a high 2/3 sub-publishing share, which is 4/12 of the performance rights and 33,33% of the mechanical rights.

Of the total earnings of royalty and copyright fees, the original owners have been granted around 58,6% of a total of 848,000 dkk, which is 497,000 dkk. Further compensation for damage, defamatory missing composer credits, and investigation expenses, has been granted as 250,000 dkk (actual cash investigation costs are 237,000 dkk). Furthermore the expenses of court-fee, and lawyer costs, shall be compensated with 111,000 dkk, which after Danish Law does not reflect the actual costs (of 521,000 dkk), but a fee stated by the Court.

Djuma Soundsystem has told in various media, that they only have an income of some 120,000 to 140,000 dkk – the defendants own Court documents and the calculations from the independent copyright organizations shows different – however Frantz Vilmer Thomasen (DJ Disse) states to one Danish media, that they probably have earned around 500,000 dkk.

The case is principle, as being the first Danish case of copyright breach by sampling. Djuma Soundsystem has appealed the Verdict to a Higher Court (Landsretten).

Written by Per Meistrup the 20th November, 2011.

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Sheet music, Turkish Showbiz (PDF)

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