04/09/03: Dead Kennedys Fact Sheet
Statement of Facts
Alerted to discrepancies in accounting practices by a then current employee at Alternative Tentacles (AT) in the late Summer of 1998, the Dead Kennedys (DKs) requested to see the AT books for a full accounting of their recorded catalogue as handled by AT. The lawsuit was a last resort by the three members of the Dead Kennedys (East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride and D.H. Peligro). They saw no other recourse to resolving the stonewalling tactics of Jello Biafra to prevent the other three members access to accounting practices at AT.
Before the lawsuit was filed, the band - Ray, Klaus and D.H - repeatedly asked that Jello meet to discuss the royalty discrepancy and general accounting practices dating from as early as 1988 onward to 1998. Jello refused to meet with his former band members.
A band meeting was called in September 1998 to decide what course of action could/should is taken. Leaving AT was a last and unthinkable resort as Alternative Tentacles was essentially the Dead Kennedys. The band gave Jello two weeks notice before the meeting and offered him six alternative dates. As one-fourth of the DKs partnership the other three members desired him to be present at the meeting. Jello did not attend the meeting and the remaining members voted to sever ties with the label that was ironically a label they created.
History of DKs relationship with Alternative Tentacles
The DKs formed in San Francisco in 1978 when Ray placed an ad in a music paper that vocalist Biafra responded to. Bassist Klaus and drummer Ted joined them. D.H. replaced Ted at the end of 1980. Their first gig was at the Mabuhay Gardens in July 1978.
In 1979, the DKs first used the name Alternative Tentacles as their record label to release their first recording, “California Uber Alles” / “Man with the Dogs.” The band owns the label with the income being split equally 4 ways.
In July 1981, the four members of the Dead Kennedys formally organize as Decay Music, a California general partnership, to handle Dead Kennedys’ licensing and business endeavors. The partnership is comprised of Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride and DH Peligro. The four-band members vote upon business conducted on behalf of the Dead Kennedys and Decay Music. Decay exists and continues to this day as Dead Kennedys’ sole and exclusive business entity.
1983, AT is formally organized as an independent record label with distribution by Mordam Records.
From 1982 to 1986, AT was jointly administered by Jello Biafra and East Bay Ray to the benefit of all four members as well as the other bands on the label.
From 1982 to 1986, Ray was responsible for the financial and business administration of the label. As such, Ray set up the financial and business terms under which Dead Kennedys material was distributed by AT.
In late 1983, Biafra brings in Richard F. Stott, a close friend, to advise the band and act as the band’s attorney. Stott and Biafra did not inform Ray, Klaus and D.H. that Stott was also Biafra’s personal attorney.
In Jan. 1986 the DK’s decide to stop performing live. Their final studio album, Bedtime for Democracy is released Nov 1986.
Also in early 1986, ownership of AT was transferred from the band to Biafra individually. Biafra agreed to continue the relationship with AT and DKs. Previous to this, Ray had previously administered the relationship.
1988, DK’s catalog is released on CD’s.
Jan 1996, AT raises the wholesale price it receives on CD’s.
Dec 1997 - a meeting was held about
AT having raised the wholesale price but not sharing any of the increased
income with the artists on the label as required by the original agreement.
At the meeting were band members Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray and Klaus
Flouride along with the former general manager of AT, Greg Werckman, the
then current label manager Kristin Von Till, and attorney Richard Stott.
Nothing results from the meeting. In late summer of 1998, the band was
alerted by then general manager of AT (Kristin Von Till) to years of deliberate
accounting discrepancies within the DK catalogue. The new issue was that
Alternative Tentacles had been deliberately underpaying DKs’ royalties
by calculating them at a lesser rate per CD than other artists on the
label. This was a violation of the original agreement for the DKs to receive
the same as the other artists on the label (most-favored-nation status).
. Jello knew about this discrepancy, and deliberately did not inform the
other three members of the band that DKs royalties were being underpaid.
On October 29, 1998 Decay Music and three band members - East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride and DH Peligro filed suit in the Superior Court of the State of California for the city and county of San Francisco against Jello Biafra and Alternative Tentacles Records.
The complaint sought a declaration that the license agreement between Decay Music and AT had been terminated; that the rights to the band’s intellectual property were exclusively with the Decay Music partnership; and that partnership matters were subject to majority vote. The complaint also sought compensatory and punitive damages against Biafra relating to his breaches of contractual and fiduciary duties to the Decay Music partnership and the other partners as well as an injunction prohibiting Biafra from exploiting DEAD KENNEDYS intellectual property without majority consent.
The case was tried in May 2000 over a three-week period.
Five issues addressed in the lawsuit
May 19, 2000, the jury returned Special
Verdicts in favor of Dead Kennedys, Decay Music, Ray, Klaus and DH. The
verdict stated that:
On November 20, 2000 the court entered its Statement of Decision upholding the jury’s findings and entered Judgment against Biafra on December 22, 2000
March 14, 2001 Jello Biafra files Appeal in State Court in San Francisco, CA
June 21, 2001 - Decay Music
partners’ licenses the Dead Kennedys music to Los Angeles based
independent label Manifesto Records to distribute their catalog. The catalog
was remastered from the original tapes and the first live CD put out by
the band, “Mutiny On the Bay’ was released Sept 11. 2002.
last updated 07/14/04