In a Lawsuit Over a Song, a Plaintiff’s Unusual Approach

From The New York Times:

THE lawsuit traversed familiar ground: lesser-known songwriter sues established artist, claiming that her work was poached and turned into a hit song.

The two songs shared the same themes, touching on pain and regret. The hit song, nominated for a Grammy Award, vowed that the protagonist “never meant to hurt you”; the other song offered, “never meant to cause you pain.”

The songwriter, Peggy Harley of Queens, filed a copyright infringement suit in 2008 in Federal District Court in Manhattan and, acting without a lawyer, demanded millions of dollars in damages.

“My lifes work was stolen from me,” she wrote in a 13-page complaint riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. “I am afflicted with pain and suffering and emotional distress.”

But Ms. Harley proceeded to do just about everything possible to sabotage her own claim.

She failed to appear for hearings or showed up late. Judges accused her of interrupting them, filing frivolous motions, disobeying court orders and refusing to participate in the discovery process. She accused judges of bias.

She was admonished in court, ordered to pay about $13,000 in sanctions and even barred from using certain evidence.

One particularly exasperated judge observed: “The world is going to end someday, and my job is to try to see that this case gets adjudicated before the world ends.”

And then something remarkable happened: Ms. Harley won her case.

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