The final day but an agonising wait for a verdict
Note: we refer to Ghost’s frontman by his stage name, see this article for the reason why.
Welcome to The Metal Report’s second part of the coverage of day three of the trial which sees four former Nameless Ghouls suing Ghost‘s front man. Bold text is The Metal Report’s comments and are not a part of the proceedings.
Day one – Opening remarks
Day two – Opening remarks and Alpha/Fire testimony
Day three part 1 – Alpha/Fire, Air, Earth and Water testify
Day three part 2 – Cardinal Copia testimony
Day four – Original Water, Sissi Hagald, Niels Nielson, Magnus Strömblad, Biffen Jansson
Day five – Colin Young, Kristen Mulderig, Rick Sales and Omega testimony
Ghost Lawsuit: Closing Argument For The Ghouls
Surprisingly there are no further witnesses being questioned, there are closing arguments only. Michael Berg on behalf of the four Ghouls goes first.
- Opens by saying that there are two agreements and legislation. Ghost is a simple company and all members have signed an agreement which is proof that Ghost is, or was a company.
- It’s been argued that the agreement has ceased, but it’s not that simple. Under the Trade Act, a company is dissolved when a change takes place and a company cannot be ended unless it is in writing.
- Cardinal Copia’s argument is that he started Ghost, that he is the front man, he signed the contracts and that he owns the companies that are used in operating Ghost. His side have focused on how the Ghouls have been paid but that only could happen if the company ended, but that’s not how a company ends.
- Copia’s evidence isn’t relevant, it has no evidence and what he says is “highly unlikely”. His application to the Cultural Council, why he had all members sign the contract with Rick Sales and the way in which he wrote the October 31st 2012 email, all the information is incorrect.
- Copia has said that there was no agreement between members before Ghost was formed and no single company was formed.
- It is beyond doubt that a company was formed.
- Over and over it’s been stated that profit would be shared and that while the Ghouls weren’t paid for the gigs, the money would be split once Ghost made a profit.
- If no agreements exist between members then profit is split equally between the members of a company.
- Money was split equally, Niels Nielson said that profit would be split. Alpha received payment for use of his studio, but that is a cost to the simple company.
- Other people were paid while the Ghouls couldn’t afford to pay their rent or eat. There was money to pay the sound engineer but not the Ghouls.
- Air was a full member, Copia’s argument is weak evidence about one thing Air said regarding the Ghouls could go out while Copia did the work.
- Before the March 2nd 2012 meeting there were emails in which Copia discussed plans going forward. At the meeting, we’ve heard consistent testimony that Copia would have greater decision making powers over the band’s look and music. It’s clear that joint decisions were made on Ghost’s other activities. There is consistent testimony from everyone, but one person – Copia, and his testimony holds no value.
- At a later meeting it was decided that profits would be shared equally. Copia has relied on Niels Nielson who says there was no agreement that profits would be shared equally, but Niels wasn’t at every meeting and not involved in every email discussion. Copia deliberately didn’t involve Niels in meetings and discussions regarding profit to keep the information from him.
- The merch money was split equally after the New York gig.
- Ghost is a simple company. Copia signed the contract with the Ghouls to be nice, which is highly unlikely.
- To Niels Nielson it was obvious that the application to the Cultural Council was for all members. The Ghouls had no money and so money should go to the company and then be split between them.
- Sissi Hagald and Rick Sales agree that they represent Copia only but what proof is there for what they say? Yet the contract was signed by all members.
- Mulderig claimed to not understand the contract as she didn’t draft it but every lawyer knows that a person who signs a contract is bound by it until the date it expires.
- Hagald says she doesn’t know what a partnership is but Google can tell you what it is. As a contract lawyer, she knows what it is and so does Copia as it’s a common concept.
- Regarding the October 31st email, no one would write “we” when they mean “me”.
- It could be claimed that Copia and Hagald decided to no longer allow the Ghouls to be involved in the partnership so Copia could keep the profit to himself. There will be no partnership, Copia delays it and the Ghouls have no money, they are frustrated and they get no reaction. Eventually Alpha gets angry and send san email to get a reaction.
- Sales claims to not understand the question about an agreement.
- Hagald tells the Ghouls repeatedly there is no money for them to be paid, they will be paid when there is profit. Everything is based on payment in the future.
- Water (in the lawsuit) was brought in to record an album as a hired musician but then was made a member of the band. He participated in meetings and made decisions with the rest of the band and was paid 12,000 SEK per month which isn’t enough to live on. It is clear he accepted that low amount as he was promised a share of the profit.
- Earth is a full member too, he played live, played on recordings and got a copy of the contract.
Ghost Lawsuit: Closing Argument For Cardinal Copia
Ann-Charlotte Söderlund Björk presents Copia’s case.
- This is about whether there is a company or not, there clearly is not and there was no reason to be.
- It is obvious that the Ghouls have united and we have one witness who’s read the live reporting.
United probably isn’t the correct word to use here but I don’t want to use the legal term ‘colluded’ as that suggests deception. She’s basically saying they have come together with the same story.
- It is disgusting. It is disgusting that Sissi Hagald has been accused of perjury, it’s a serious accusation.
Perjury is lying under oath.
- Cardinal Copia can play all the instruments, he recorded the first album, he developed the fanbase. He decided the strategy for gigs, he negotiated contracts without input from the others, he hasn’t told the others there would be agreements for them, he has appointed crew and technicians and shared the money when there was a profit.
- Copia was the one who sought money, he’s the one who struck the better deal with Rick Sales, he’s the one who applied for the money from the Cultural Council on behalf of his company. He did not ask the Ghouls to pay for anything, he is the one who negotiates with publishers, organises the costumes, he has steered everything.
- What did the Ghouls do? They did everything according to Copia’s instructions, they have been involved in some studio recordings, they have given anonymous interviews but not to major news outlets and to a degree they helped with setting up at gigs. They have rehearsed and showed up on time. Alpha’s studio was used but he was paid.
- Copia told you that he had no money but when he did you’d be paid. You jumped on board, played a little music and had a comfortable journey. Alpha joined only to play live, as did the others. Omega was a replacement. There have been monthly payments.
- “[Copia] didn’t know he was creating a Volvo Ocean Race Boat”
I’m not sure what this colloquialism means but I love it. If any Swedish readers know, please tell me!
- He had his plans but he’s a nice person and wanted the others to feel included and wanted to give them bonus eventually if there was profit.
- Copia knew what he wanted and he didn’t want the others to prevent it. They were replaceable.
- At the March 2nd meeting it was clearly established that Copia was in charge but the others would be consulted about gigs.
- Some things weren’t discussed like financial responsibility, like Copia giving a share. Why should he share equally with people who had just come in? Air had only played one show before the meeting. It is based on dishonesty, why would he share equally?
- Copia didn’t need a company with them, he has his own.
- When Sissi spoke with them it was only to say that they would be paid in future, there was no discussions of percentages.
- The email from October 31st cannot be judged on it’s own merits and should be seen in context. There has been speculation about what he meant in the email but we asked him and he told us.
- She continues her insistence that the Ghouls were not involved in a company with Copia.
- Copia has not been granted power of attorney by the Ghouls, he has licensed his rights. There is nothing in the contracts that shows he is in a company with them.
- We have heard about trade laws and those have been followed – by Copia. He is the only one with rights and responsibilities.
- There is no company, the Ghouls didn’t ask for anything, no shares were given to new or old musicians, none of them were involved in any business decisions. They’ve worked together to an extent but they are not a company.
- Most of all, he had no interest in running Ghost with anyone. They came in because he needed musicians.
- Bonuses were discussed but they were not related to profit, only revenue.
- The Ghouls have never taken any risk.
- The documents referred to by the Ghouls aren’t precise enough to form a company agreement. therefore they have no legal effect.
- The roles of the Ghouls and Copia were totally different.
- The Ghouls keep using the phrase “full member” but that doesn’t pertain to finances. We heard how two members of Slayer are not included in financial deals.
Legal costs are 3,000,000 SEK (£256,000/$330,000) which will have to be paid by the loser. The verdict will be delivered on October 17th.
It is an odd coincidence that the trial went into the extra day as today is the two year anniversary of the release of Square Hammer.
It was surprising that there were no testimonies, Earth (the original one) was to give testimony in the case at some point and Omega’s testimony seemed to end abruptly although that could just be down to the notes available. In the case of Earth it must be a huge relief to not take the stand in an argument between friends. Both lawyers have given clear arguments for their case here although Michael Berg seems to have consistently been stronger throughout when it came to questioning witnesses.
The legal costs are significant so whoever loses is going to take a big hit. Additionally the Ghouls have requested a fine of 200,000 SEK (£17,069/$22,269) be levied on Cardinal Copia if the court decides he should show the accounts for Ghost’s income and he refuses to do so. Realistically, refusal to obey a court order would be a very bad move so it isn’t likely to come to that.
It’s definitely been an interesting two weeks that has seen lawyers literally argue in court, Ghost fans argue online, some fans accusing Andreas Schander of accepting bribes from Cardinal Copia, while I’ve also been accused of bias by Ghoul supporters despite stating openly that I see both sides of the argument and am trying to write neutrally.
Copia’s argument is that he started Ghost, he has written all the songs, created the image, done all of the important press interviews, been the creative force behind the band; in short he’s done the majority of the work. The Ghouls on the other hand have done a significant amount of touring and not been paid then later paid very little.
If a band is a partnership then it’s common for musicians to be starving artists while they establish themselves and even getting signed to a record label isn’t usually enough to change that as labels stack the odds in their favour when it comes to money. In Ghost’s case it started as a solo project which then involved more people as it progressed. Are the Ghouls equals? I don’t think it’s possible to argue that they are in terms of what they’ve contributed towards Ghost. However, they worked for years towards a common goal and it seems that some of them were paid a very small amount but only in later years. The big question is the accounts and no matter how you personally feel about Ghost, they need to be seen in order to properly assess the band’s financial position throughout the years. It could well be that Ghost made no profit until 2017 but there’s no way of knowing that unless the accounts are seen. It also needs too be established whether the Ghouls were musicians for hire or partners, because as partners it’s okay for them to be underpaid but as employees they’ll presumably have a case for claiming reasonable back pay, especially as Ghost is now in profit.
It’s still my opinion that Ghost started out like most bands where nothing was discussed about money, division of money or formal agreements because the vast majority of bands don’t make money. In the early stages of Ghost when the plan was to maybe play a couple of festivals a year then it seems reasonable that the band would equally split the money. However once the contract was signed for Infestissumam then it’s understandable that Copia felt that as he was doing most of the work he didn’t want to give away 5/6 of something he created and certainly not in a way where everyone was paid equally. However, there’s no way that the Ghouls should be expected to perform for very little or no money when the band received a reported $750,000 advance for Infestissumam.
The sad thing is that despite the accusations and allegations it’s easy to see that this was a group of friends who got caught up in something that became far larger than any of them anticipated. Without any contracts in place and with foreign companies being established as separate trading entities then it became a mess without an easy solution.
Nameless Ghoul Alpha
I talked about it previously but have been asked regularly: Alpha said in court that he co-wrote a number of songs. He was the producer for Opus Eponymous, was credited as such and he would have received a producer’s royalty percentage which is usually between 2 and 5% of the price the album is sold for. Did he co-write anything? He’s not listed as a writer in the album inlays nor is he registered with ASCAP as having written any Ghost songs.
There’s no doubt that as the longest serving of the Ghouls he has the strongest argument for being a partner in the band out of the four Ghouls involved. He played on a large number of Ghost’s recorded songs and did pre-production for Infestissumam.
Nameless Ghoul Omega
I stated yesterday that Omega co-wrote Year Zero and Zenith, he actually wrote more than that. He also co-wrote Body and Blood, Monstrance Clock, Spirit, From the Pinnacle to the Pit, He Is, Mummy Dust, Majesty and Absolution. He would have been, and still is, receiving writing credit payments for those songs. I also got wrong the number of songs he recorded, he played on all of Infestissumam and three tracks from If You Have Ghosts. I apologise for the errors, it was a very long day with serious family issues cropping up and in haste to get the article published I didn’t pay it the attention I should have.
It is surprising that Omega isn’t involved in the lawsuit as he probably has the best case of any Ghoul and was, by his admission, very vocal about being paid. He was thanked on Prequelle’s liner notes so it’s been speculated that he and Copia are on good terms again. It could however be that he wants to put Ghost behind him and move on with his new band. If the verdict is in the Ghouls’ favour and the accounts show he was underpaid when there was money available then perhaps we will see Omega file suit.
If the verdict is in the Ghouls’ favour then there’ll no doubt be follow up litigation to establish if they were partners in Ghost or not and to settle financial issues if there was profit during the period that they were in the band. The trial so far has shown how much of a mess everything is and further litigation will get cripplingly expensive, particularly for whoever loses. The other side affect is that we could see the Ghouls retaining an interest in Ghost and also other former members litigating if there’s money to be had.
I think it’s likely the judges will decide this round in the Ghouls’ favour so that the accounts can be assessed. After that, let’s hope that there can be an amicable solution between the parties where they can agree on a settlement before it gets out of hand as the only people who usually get rich in court are the lawyers.
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Andreas Schander has been covering the trial live for Linkoping News and this report is based on translations of his work. The only parts of his work that have been replicated exactly are reproduced in quotations.