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Former Label Sues Tim McGraw for Copyright Infringement

Tim McGraw
Scott Barbour, Getty Images

In the latest round of a bitter legal battle stretching back several years, Curb Records has filed a new legal complaint against Tim McGraw for copyright infringement.

According to the Tennessean, the action — which was filed Monday (April 29) — claims that McGraw was still under contract to Curb when he recorded the songs for his current album ‘Two Lanes of Freedom,’ meaning that the tracks actually belong to Curb.

The legal dispute goes back to May of 2011, when Curb filed suit against the singer for breach of contract. The original filing alleged that McGraw delivered his ‘Emotional Traffic’ album too soon, which was in violation of a contract clause that obligated him to space his albums at least 18 months apart. Curb refused to release ‘Emotional Traffic.’ McGraw argued that its delivery fulfilled the final obligation in his contract.

He countersued, claiming that Curb Records had kept him in an ongoing state of “involuntary servitude” by forcing him to wait so long to record new albums, thereby stretching out his contract indefinitely. McGraw also alleged that Curb’s decision to release a total of seven ‘Greatest Hits’ albums was a deliberate ploy to extend his contract against his will.

In November of 2011 a Nashville court ruled that McGraw was free to record elsewhere while he waited for the suit to be heard. McGraw subsequently signed a new deal with Big Machine Records in May of 2012, and he released his first project with them, ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’ on Feb. 5, 2013. The album reached No. 1 in the Billboard Country charts.

Curb has already argued that McGraw was still under contract to the label when that album was recorded, making the new music the property of Curb Records. An appeals court ruling last September upheld the the previous ruling that McGraw was free to record elsewhere. In February, the Supreme Court refused to hear another appeal from Curb, which normally would have ended all but the damages portion of the case.

But Monday’s filing means the label has found another angle from which to argue essentially the same points. The new suit repeats the claim that McGraw was still under contract to Curb when he recorded the songs that have already been released under the auspices of Big Machine, including three hit singles — ‘Truck Yeah,’ ‘One of Those Nights’ and ‘Highway Don’t Care.’ The new filing also says McGraw was obliged to deliver yet another greatest hits package but didn’t, arguing that the superstar owes Curb not only one more album, but two.

Curb is asking for lost profits, diminution in the value of its property and compensatory and punitive damages from McGraw and Big Machine.

Next: See More of Country Music's Biggest Feuds

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