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Legal Briefs Strewn Across Osmond’s Comeback Trail

Times Staff Writer

Former teen idol Donny Osmond, now 31, is wedged in the middle of a legal battle between powerhouse Capitol Records and a smaller record company owned by former Lt. Gov. Mike Curb over distribution rights to his just-released “comeback” album scheduled to reach record store shelves on Tuesday.

Both record companies claim to have the exclusive distribution rights to Osmond’s new album and hit single, “Soldier of Love,” his first recordings in 10 years. The dance-accented single, No. 15 on the Billboard charts this week, is Osmond’s first Top 40 hit since “C’mon Marianne” in 1976.

The courtroom battles began when Curb Records sued for breach of contract, alleging that Osmond had agreed to have Curb and Capitol jointly distribute the album. Capitol countersued for copyright infringement, claiming that it has exclusive rights to record and distribute the songs on Osmond’s album and that Curb violated the copyright by releasing promotional copies of the “Soldier of Love” single, said Ronald Reynolds, Osmond’s attorney.

Lawyers have been arguing the case publicly and privately for weeks. During the weekend, negotiations were under way to avoid a court hearing today on Curb’s request for an injunction barring Capitol’s release of the album.

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Osmond’s relationship with Curb goes back 25 years when he was a singing member of the Osmond Family and Curb was an executive with MGM Records. As president of MGM Records, Curb guided Osmond’s career during the mid-'70s when he turned out such hits as “One Bad Apple,” “Puppy Love” and “Go Away Little Girl.”

In the last few years, Osmond has sought to leave behind his clean-cut, unhip image by recording an album of dance tunes in England. Osmond turned to Capitol Records to record and distribute his album in the United States in an effort to broaden his image and ensure greater publicity and support for his new musical efforts.

“All Donny is saying is: ‘I’m not a 15-year-old kid anymore, I’m a 31-year-old man,’ ” said Osmond’s manager William Waite III. “I don’t think it’s a conscious, contrived image change as much as the man is now grown up.”

In an unusual legal move, Capitol Records and Curb Records filed their lawsuits in both Los Angeles Superior Court and federal court earlier this month, each asking that the other be barred from distributing the record and single.

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The Superior Court suits center on distribution rights, an area that is commonly dealt with in state courts, while the federal court suits focus on copyright infringement, an area of law covered by federal law. Last Tuesday, after a three-hour hearing, Capitol Records scored a victory when U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi issued a temporary restraining order barring Curb Records from distributing Osmond’s single.

That cleared the way for Capitol Records to begin distributing more than 400,000 copies of Osmond’s album, which the company did the following day, according to Capitol attorney Howard King.

King told Judge Tagasugi that Capitol had already spent more than $1 million to promote and publicize Osmond’s album and that the singer’s “livelihood would be at stake” if the album’s distribution were delayed. Some radio stations were already playing the single.

“The idea is to take advantage of the momentum of the single and even a slight delay harms us irreparably,” King said.

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After a week of public legal haggling, lawyers for Osmond, Curb and Capitol spent their weekends discussing a settlement of a part of the dispute. After losing the round in federal court, Curb’s lawyers were negotiating Sunday to drop their request for an injunction.

If no settlement is reached, the parties will be back in court this afternoon.

In an earlier hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kurt J. Lewin commented: “Mr. Osmond could just stand around while the lawyers fight about this for two years and nobody gets the album out. In the end the loser is Mr. Osmond. . . . He is presented here as just kind of being the dupe of people surrounding him. . . .”


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