Numero did not grant the RFT a requested interview. However, a label representative did e-mail us a statement:

The Numero Group ended its relationship with Mr. Oakes in 2008 at his request. Because our primary responsibility is to our recording artists and their fans, after our original agreement with Mr. Oakes had expired we struck a new deal with 11 of the 16 artists represented on the 33-track Numero 004 and created a new 22-track product as Buttons: Starter Kit, with new liner notes, new sequencing, and two new songs. Mr. Oakes has no ownership or stewardship in this new release. We believe that these circumstances, of which he is fully aware, have no relationship to, or impact on our satisfied clients and fans except as gossip and hearsay.

Oakes disputes this: "Prefill stayed in print for years after Numero and I stopped speaking. Why would I have a problem with it staying in print? The assertion is ridiculous."

Oakes says that he is now considering his legal options. "To my understanding, compilations and derivative works are born with a copyright that is held by the person who assembled it, if it comprised a work of authorship. I picked the songs — all from my collection and wrote the liner notes. The project was about me. And because I had a licensing/royalty deal with the label and was not an employee, I still own the copyright."

Attorney Bruce Oakes, who is Jordan's brother, has been in contact with Numero. "I feel strongly that if the court determined that Jordan did have a valid copyright, that the copyright was infringed," attorney Oakes says via e-mail. "It is [Numero's] contention that the new release is different enough from the original as to not raise any issues. The frustrating thing for Jordan is that it is cost-prohibitive to hire an attorney who practices in this area based on the amount of damages at issue."

Whether he would prevail is open for debate. Section 103 of the Copyright Act of 1976 does allow for protection of compilations, providing nothing in the work has not been used unlawfully. "The critical question is whether the selection, arrangement and organization of recordings is sufficiently original such that it's protected under copyright," says Alan Korn, a California-based attorney who specializes in music business and copyright issues.

This makes it fairly easy and straightforward to license preexisting compilation albums. The Prefill/Starter Kit issue is murkier. On one hand, Starter Kit did use many of the Prefill tracks, and it's unfortunate that Numero did not see fit to credit Oakes for his efforts. On the other hand, the label did approach each of the original copyright holders for Starter Kit and only used tracks by those that agreed to re-up.

"If the Copyright Office agreed and issued a copyright registration certificate, Oakes could pursue an infringement claim," Korn says. "It would then be up to the court to decide the scope of protection that Oakes retained. If a court ruled that his copyright in the compilation was narrowly protected, it would likely only protect against exact copying. In that case, Numero Group would have a strong case, since their subsequent collection is sequenced differently, doesn't include all the original recordings and adds a few additional tracks. Even if he prevailed, Jordan's entitlement to damages would depend on whether he registered his copyright interest in the compilation with the Copyright Office before any alleged infringement. If not, he could only recover actual damages — i.e., lost licensing income — or Numero Group's profits, neither of which appear to be substantial. So unless there's a prior registration on file, it's probably not the most cost-effective claim to pursue."

In the meantime, Numero has continued its inroads into the power-pop world. In the past two years, it has released a box set dedicated to Kansas City's Titan Records, compiled a second Buttons volume (From Champaign to Chicago) and released four LPs of rare and demo material by Shoes. Most of this material is excellent and lovingly packaged. Oakes says he's glad they've seen print. Mostly, he says, he's disappointed at the way this whole situation has played out.

"Like anyone, I simply expect to be treated fairly," he says. "Perhaps I was too trusting, but it doesn't justify how they're treating me now."

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Jordan does not own and did not create the songs, Numero wants to pay artists or their heirs, Jordan wants Jordan to be paid. I could be wrong but that is how this reads to me.


@bobbeatle8 Thanks for reading the article about me, and taking the time to comment. It isn't about the money.  As the old cliche goes, it's about the principle. As the attorneys pointed out, there isn't much money to be gained, even for the artists -- so I doubt their heirs will see any. And if they do, it might be argued that my (re-) discovery of the groups in question made it possible for their heirs to be enriched in the first place. And it's not a matter of me being paid *instead* of the bands (just in case there is some confusion about this). My agreement impacts them not at all. Of course I did not create the songs -- but I worked (can I say "my ass off"?) for a long time tracking down the bands. I essentially licensed to Numero my vision, not to mention the Yellow Pills moniker. I wrote the booklet and picked the track order. The CD was designed, at Numero's request, to be about me and my taste in music. For this, I did have a contract for a small royalty, which was to be paid only if, and as, the CD sold. If this is in fact a reissue -- and remember it has the same catalog number and all but a couple of songs are from the original CD -- then why wouldn't the label be obligated to continue to pay me according to my agreement? And I mean that in a legal sense, of course; which says nothing of any moral and factual flaws in not acknowledging my integral contribution.. At the least, the "Buttons Starter Kit" CD is a work that, in terms of the tracks taken from the original CD, is highly derivative of "Prefill" -- close enough to have the same catalog number. I'm absolutely not looking for a thank you; but not mentioning my name at all seems like essentially witholding information about the CD's production --in terms of who compiled the songs to begin with. To my knowledge, at least several of the bands, when they signed on, believed the "Buttons" release had my contribution and/or endorsement. And I'm not sure how somebody could read the entire article and take from it that I'm after money. If this is about greed, it's certainly not *my* greed. What's more, I feel the label continues to benefit indirectly from "Prefill." They are reissuing releases by the great band Shoes -- who were introduced to Numero via "Prefill." It could even be argued that the inspiration for the entire "Buttons" series came from "Prefill." Look, I am happy for these bands -- all of them. But if anything seems to be apparent, it's that after all these years some record labels, unfortunately, continue to contribute to the bad rep the music industry has always earned. Furthermore, I wanted to add that I realize the article puts some people in a sensitive spot, as I'm their friend, but they're also friends with at least one person who owns the Numero label. St. Louis is just this way. I suggest these people try to subtract who the article is about -- both parties -- and focus on *what* it's about. Does this situation seem fair to you? I appreciate your comment, bobbeatle8. By the way, any relation to...? Oh, nevermind.

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