How much can a notebook be worth? In the case of one of country music’s best-known songwriters, quite a lot. $250,000, in fact. Music publisher Sony/ATV has filed a lawsuit against a pair of collectors after reading about them in an article. Stephen Shutts and Robert Reynolds run the Honky Tonk Hall of Fame, and claim they acquired a notebook containing lyrics and notes by the late Hank Williams (the writer of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Cold Cold Heart”) from a lady in Nashville. Sony/ATV claim it was stolen and would like the notebook back, although it’s not clear on what grounds. If they signed an exclusive publishing contract with Williams, it’s possible they administer the rights to his writings included in the book. But I’m not sure they have any claim on the notebook itself. If this was the case, the napkins and taxi receipts on which John Lennon would occasionally scribble would belong to Northern Songs, which is not the case.
But as any lyricist knows, little notebooks should be treated with care. How long before someone starts collecting the hard-disks or PDAs of today’s writers?