Perhaps you know about the problems John Fogerty had with Saul Zaentz, founder of Fantasy Records, in the early ‘70s. It led to the breakup of Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1972. Fogerty wanted to dissolve his relationship so much that, in order to get out of his contract, he signed away the copyrights, publishing rights and royalties to his CCR songs.
In 1985, after a nine-year absence from recording new music, John Fogerty released Centerfield. It was a return to the “swamp rock” sound that first made his music popular. Once again Fogerty’s songs were on the radio: the title track, “The Old Man Down the Road” and “Rock and Roll Girls.” There were also two songs on the LP that slammed Zaentz, “Mr. Greed” and “Zanz Kant Danz.” Zaentz filed a defamation suit against Fogerty for the latter. A settlement was reached out of court and subsequent pressings of Centerfield renamed the song “Vanz Kant Danz.”
Following that victory, Zaentz filed another lawsuit in federal court, this time claiming that Fogerty’s “The Old Man Down the Road” infringed on a song Zaentz now owned, “Run Through the Jungle” (a Fogerty composition from 1970 off CCR’s Cosmos Factory ). Zaentz claimed Fogerty had taken the song and dropped in new lyrics; in short, Fogerty had plagiarized a previous Fogerty song.
The case ( Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty ) finally arrived in Federal District Court in San Francisco in the autumn of 1988. The two-week trial had defendant Fogerty in the courtroom with his guitar, explaining that although the two songs might sound similar to the average person, each song had entirely different elements of structure, melody and arrangement. It took the jury two hours to deliberate and, on Nov. 7, 1988, they decided John Fogerty was not guilty of copyright infringement.
[NOTE: Fogerty asked the court to reimburse his legal expenses, which totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars.Whereas a plaintiff would normally get these charges included in their settlement against an infringing defendant, a defendant was not guaranteed a reciprocal decision from the court. Fogerty filed suit against Zaentz ( Fogerty v. Fantasy ) to recover his legal expenses and his case landed before the U.S.Supreme Court. Long story short, in 1994, Fogerty was awarded reimbursement for his legal fees. In 2005, when Fantasy Records was sold, the new owners reinstated royalty payments to Fogerty … but they still own his CCR songs.]