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Wondering if you can write off your leather pants as a business expense if you are in the music biz? You can’t, according to a 1997 decision by the U.S. Tax Court in a case filed by a backup musician for Rod Stewart. Those pants pull double duty for work and personal use and aren’t deductible, the court ruled. That decision is one of more than 2,400 judicial rulings compiled on www.thediscography.org — a Web database created by Loren Wells, a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. The site, which he launched last month, is supported and underwritten by the law school’s Center for Empirical Research in the Law. It includes 2,400 court decisions relating to the music industry that are searchable by artist, case type, location and date. The database began as a personal project for Wells, a huge music fan who has played in bands and dabbled in the industry for years. (He moved in the same musical circles as popular Chicago bands the Plain White T’s and Fall Out Boy, but never saw their level of success.) In those days, he got to know a lawyer in the industry. “He said, ‘You seem like a guy who would be good at this,’ ” Wells said. “ The music thing never quite happened, so I made the decision that it was time to go to law school.” When he enrolled in 2007, the first thing he did on his Westlaw account was look up rock and roll superstars Guns N’ Roses. Wells began researching music cases and compiling them in a spreadsheet — first for his own amusement, then for a law school paper. The spreadsheet ballooned and Wells’ trademarks professor suggested that he take the idea to the center. “I was flabbergasted that a student had devoted such a significant amount of time and effort to creating such a unique collection,” said Andrew Martin, the center’s director. “Until I met Loren face-to-face, I was quite skeptical about the entire endeavor. But once I talked to Loren and got my hands on the data, and I understood his passion and his unique take on American law, I was sold.” The discography represents a significant departure from the center’s other projects, which focus on data-driven investigations of the courts, Martin said. Since graduating in the spring, Wells has spent much of his time working on the database and getting it into a searchable format. The site also includes Wells’ Discblography — a blog devoted to legal issues and developments in the music industry. He sees the database as a useful tool for academics, journalists and small-time music managers who aren’t very familiar with the industry’s legal ins and outs. The project has given Wells plenty of time to explore legal issues in the music world. Among his favorite cases are one in which an attorney sued John Fogerty in 2003 for playing too loud at a concert. The judge sided with Fogerty and dismissed the case. The database doesn’t include suits that settled prior to a court decision, eliminating some of the more amusing cases, Wells said. That includes the suit by the rock band Kiss against a tribute band of little people called … wait for it … Mini Kiss.

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