Whoomp! Extrinisic evidence.

The same week as whoompthe en banc vote in the whooping crane litigation, the Fifth Circuit analyzed “Whoomp! (There It Is).”  The unfortunate song has been mired in copyright infringement litigation for a decade; the district court entered judgment for the plaintiff for over $2 million, and it was affirmed in Isbell v. DM Records, Inc., Nos. 13-40787 and 14-40545 (Dec. 18, 2014).  [The opinion notes: “The word “‘Whoomp!’ appears to be a neologism, perhaps a variant of ‘Whoop!,’ as in a cry of excitement.”]

The main appellate issue was a variant of a frequently-litigated topic — the role of extrinsic evidence in contract interpretation.  The assignment in question was governed by California law, which the Court found to “employ[] a liberal parol evidence rule” with respect to consideration of extrinsic evidence.  The appellant argued that the district image court erred “in interpreting the Recording Agreement without asking the jury to make any findings on the extrinsic evidence.”  The Court disagreed, finding that the record did not present “a question of the credibility of conflicting extrinsic evidence” (emphasis in original): “The only dispute is over the meaning of the Recording Agreement and the inferences that should be drawn from the numerous undisputed pieces of extrinsic evidence.  This is a question of law for the court, not for a jury.”

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