Hopeton Brown known professionally as Scientist is one of the founding fathers of Dance Hall dub. In fact Scientist is credited as being the pioneer that created the unique dance hall sounds that no one else has yet to duplicate, He was the sound engineer of the “dub originator” King Tubby, who ironically gave Hopeton the name “Scientist,” when he made a comment to sound system owner Bunny Lee, that Hopeton was so proficient that he must be a “Scientist.” One may say that Scientist is a genius in terms of skill and technical proficiency that took Dance Hall music to new heights.
Scientist developed his technical knowledge of electronics as a youngster through his father, who was a television and radio repair technician. He never had any formal training and most of what he knows of electronics was self-taught. He broke into the music business when he started to build amplifiers for the sound systems. He became acquainted with King Tubby when he used to buy transformers from Tubby’s studio located at Dromilly Road in Kingston. It wasn’t long before Scientist became King Tubby’s assistant performing jobs such as winding coils for transformers; he began as a mixer until he had the opportunity to function as a sound engineer.
While at King Tubby’s Scientist became the person who was in charge of the studio. Even though he was a teenager King Tubby entrusted him with managing the studio. It seemed like Tubby didn’t want anything more to do with producing sounds and wanted to concentrate more on his electronic business. Scientist was given the keys to the studio, and free rein over those who were older and were working for Tubby before Scientist came into the picture; even allowing him to handle the finances.
Scientist left King Tubby’s in 1979 and came into prominence in the early 1980’s producing many albums for Channel One. Later he move onto the Bob Marley owned Tuff Gong studio and by the mid 80’s he left Jamaica for the United States, continuing on with his work as a sound engineer in recording studios.
It was at Channel one where Scientist did a lot of work developing the unique sounds and collaborating with many personalities in reggae and Dance Hall music. Scientist was involved in the production of many hits; he also made albums that were released on the international market themed around Scientist’s fictional achievements. The record label marketed the albums on the strength of Scientist’s name and likeness. The albums had such names as Scientist vs Space Invaders; Scientist wins the world cup, Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires, Scientist Encounters Pac Man.
The music industry in Jamaica is a cut throat business and there were many things done by the executive producers of Jamaican music that exploited the economic position and ignorance of the artists, and the composers of the sound. Practices that violate copy write laws of Jamaica, England and the United States. Scientist was one of the victims among many who got victimized to these unscrupulous practices.
The thing is, that the artists, song writers, musical composers and sound producers the ones who created the content; that they are the actual owners and have rights; and those rights give them a say so as to what is done with the product. That they are entitled to royalties and by law the producers cannot sell or go into contract with third parties without their permission and that the producers are only entitled to three percent of the royalties.
What the Producers actually do when they register the product, is to place their name on the product’s credits. Making claims that they either wrote, or co-wrote the song. They make claims that they composed or are a co-composer of the musical composition, that they were the ones who did the mixing of the beat, and creating the iconic sounds. In essence they will pass the product off as their own.
The producers may pay the artists and production team for a day’s work. They entice the creators to sign their rights away on paper. They will then take the product and sell it to the big record labels; and depending on the contract that was signed royalties are distributed between the producers and the label.
If those records are doing well internationally the creators are usually the last to know. Often finding out when they get word from friends or relatives telling them about how their music is a hit.
The record labels know how to get away with exploiting the Jamaican based creators because most of them are not in the economic position to hire a British based Barrister, or solicitor to represent their interests in England.
In Scientist’s experience, his most frequent collaborator Henry “Junjo” Lawes took some of Scientist’s work to the British based Greensleeve Records; who released them on the international market. Scientist had no knowledge what Junjo Lawes did and only found out when a relative living in England called him and told him that his albums were popular hits.
Scientist contacted Greensleeve about it; however, for various reasons like most of the Jamaican Artists, Scientist did not pursue any legal action. Perhaps he was not in a position to do anything about the infringement.
It wasn’t until he left Jamaica that any legal motions occurred. It began when Scientist happen to be in San Diego, California doing a show when he went to a supermarket to pick up some food. When a kid recognized him as a figure on the video game Grand Theft Auto and told him that the game is featuring his music. After Scientist verified what the kid had told him, he contacted Chris Sedgwick the head of Greensleeves who wasn’t forthcoming with information concerning Grand Theft Auto; but finally admitted that Greensleeves licensed it.
Scientist raised the argument that Greensleeves did not have his permission or the permission of the other artists to the licensed tracks. Sedwick became belligerent and told Scientist, that he does not have to talk to him and to go get a Lawyer.
Sedwick thought that Scientist would be like any other Artist and just let it go; Scientist took the advice and hired a Lawyer. Scientist fired off a law suit that forced Greensleeves to produce the copyright documents, and anything associated with the deal with Rockstar Games the video game company.
The law suit played out in the New York Southern District Federal court The lawsuit exposed the dirty dealing between Junjo Lawes and Greensleeves. That Junjo Lawes was illiterate and that documents signed between Greensleeves and Junjo Lawes were highly questionable; especially the last contract that Junjo Lawes allegedly signed just before his death that gave Greensleeves the copyright to music produced by over 30 Artists.
Representatives of the Rockstar saw the situation for what it was, and decided to settle with Scientist for undisclosed amount of damages. The battle with Rockstar was concluded, but the war over the copyright infringement with Greensleeves continued on in court. Plus Greensleeves was on the hook to pay for Rockstar’s legal expenses.
Since the validity of the contracts that Greensleeves signed with Junjo Lawes was in question; Greensleeves had producer Lloyd “King Jammys” James, travel from Jamaica to New York to testify on their behalf. The testimony went into history citing when both Scientist and King Jammys were working in King Tubby’s studio.
King Jammys claimed that he was the boss and foreman at King Tubby’s and that Scientist was too young (age 14/15) and did not have the experience to engineer the music that he said that he did. Plus that when Scientist did work it was on a work for hire basis; they he got a one-time payment for the work which did not extend to copyright ownership.
Scientist made admission that what Jammys claimed wasn’t true; that despite his young age King Tubby implicitly trusted him to open up and lock up the studio. Scientist also asserted that King Tubby told him in front of Jammys not to allow Jammys to stay at the studio by himself, not to allow Jammys to handle the money and that Jammys had to leave the studio when he told him to leave. King Tubby did not trust Jammys to allow him to do anything unsupervised.
Scientist’s admissions were backed up by another producer Hyman ‘Jah Life” Wright. However King Tubby is the only person who can verify who was in charge of the studio is deceased.
Ultimately the Scientist lost the copyright infringement. The Jury believed that given his age at that point of time; they thought it was unconscionable that a teenager would be given that level of responsibility. One can sum this up to cultural bias; the Jury composed of Americans may not understand that just because American teens cannot be trusted with the level of responsibility that King Tubby gave Scientist; it is not unheard of in Jamaica.
It was later found out that Jammys committed perjury; Jammys admitted in a taped conversation that he lied in court. True_George supposed that Scientist has grounds to file an appeal. He has the evidence of perjury. At this point True_George could not find reference of an appeal.
The lawsuit took its toll on the Greensleeves owners and that company was sold. This allowed Scientist to bring a law suit in France, Germany and Japan. True_George could not find any reference to the outcome of those cases.
Scientist is still active; working his craft for a variety of artists across various genre of music.
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