Press Release June 26th, 2010-Please share!

Frank and Cecilia Foster with Filmmaker Brian Grady

Composer and arranger Frank Foster, who penned one of the Count Basie Band’s most popular tunes, “Shiny Stockings,” has initiated a contract termination process with the help of faculty and students in the Community law Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark. The Clinic, under the supervision of intellectual property rights attorney Clinical Professor John Kettle, has sent notice on Foster’s behalf to the current holder of copyright that Mr. Foster will be exercising his rights in accordance with a little known provision of The Copyright Act of 1976.

As a young composer, to have a piece of music you’ve written appear on a recording by a well known bandleader in return for a small share of the residuals is very appealing. Often a young artist will sign a poorly negotiated contract without understanding the long-term ramifications. A song like “Shiny Stockings” becomes part of a catalogue of songs that are “owned” by a publishing company that can be bought and sold as an investment. Eventually, parties that had nothing to do with the creation of a work can collect the lion’s share of royalties and license fees throughout the life of the property. “Shiny Stockings”, considered an “evergreen” property has been recorded hundreds of times over the years and continues to be used in films and television shows. This represents significant potential earnings. The Copyright Act of 1976 provides for the opportunity for authors and composers to terminate prior agreements regarding the use of or transfer of rights of a copyrighted work.

A young Frank Foster at a recording session with Sarah Vaughan circa 1957

Having had a long career of recording and touring and recognized by his peers as one of the greatest Tenor Saxophonists of all time, Mr. Foster suffered a stroke in 2001 that left him partially paralyzed and unable to play his instruments. Mr. Foster’s economic situation grew bleak in the years following his stroke as reported in an interview aired on National Public Radio in 2005. If not for the residual income from his earlier published works and what he earns as an arranger he would be in dire straits.

Mr. Foster’s life is the subject of a documentary film by Director Brian Grady and produced by Mr. Grady’s company Jazz Legacy Films. The song was selected as a hook for the story as it was Mr. Foster’s best known piece of work. As part of his research for the film Grady looked into the history of the song and found it to be one of the most popular tunes of the Basie repertoire. Coincidentally, a friend who is a copyright expert in the music industry had told him of the Copyright Act and its obscure detail.

“My friend Bill Stafford explained that agreements entered into prior to 1978 can be terminated 56 years after initial vesting of copyright, and that there is a 5 year window in which an author or their descendents have to act.  They must serve notice of termination at least 2 years in advance. “Shiny Stockings” was published in March of 1956.  That meant that in order to take full advantage of the composition’s shelf life, this had to be acted upon as soon as possible.”

Professor John Kettle of Rutgers School of Law- Newark, discusses Frank Foster's copyright issues with members of the Community Law Clinic at The Rutgers School of Law.

“Frank taught in the Jazz Studies program at Rutgers–New Brunswick back in the 1970s. Rutgers–Newark is now the home of The Institute of Jazz Studies, the largest Jazz archive in the world. I made contact with Professor Kettle to see if he was interested. He was, and assigned the project to the Community Law Clinic whose students, among other activities, provide legal guidance on copyright, trademark and related IP issues. Under Professor Kettle’s supervision they identified several pieces of music that fit into the timeframe and could potentially generate a significant revenue stream in the future.

The movie “Shiny Stockings” has been awarded a Sponsorship from The New York Foundation for the Arts. Mr. Grady is now seeking grants and corporate sponsorship. He hopes to have the film completed by year’s end and to premiere it as part of Black History Month in February 2011.